During this Lenten season, I’ve been enjoying the Sunday morning CAFÉ FERRER “get-together” with adults at 10:00 a.m. A number of topics has arisen during these sessions, and some interesting questions have been posed. One of them was the oft asked, “Why doesn’t the Church teach more about divorce, abortion, same-sex marriages, contraception, and similar topics?” My answer is, “she does do so, with great fervor.” The problem is you’ll rarely find it in the secular media, and if you do, expect to see the usual cultural bias against the Church. You see, with modern, secular society, it is a common belief that the Church should “update” her moral teachings. “Why,” others often ask, “does she hold on to outdated teachings such as abortion, contraception, same-sex unions, and divorce, among many others?”
St. John Paul II explains in his encyclical, “Veritatis Splendor,” about the moral teachings of the Church, that the Church derives her authority to proclaim her moral teachings from Christ himself. She is not at liberty to change them just because society itself changes and expects the Church to follow its ways. But, because Christ gave these teachings to the Church through the Apostles and their successors, we have a moral obligation to follow them; and to do so properly, it usually takes efforts to search them out from good Catholic sources. Lacking adequate space, I’ll summarize some of them.
Regarding abortion, as John Paul II explains in “Evangelium Vitae “(The Gospel of Life), “Among all the crimes which can be committed against life, procured abortion has characteristics making it particularly serious and deplorable. The Second Vatican Council defines abortion, together with infanticide, as an “unspeakable crime.” While society says that the infant within the womb is merely a “clump of cells,” the Church has always believed that life begins at conception. Each and every life has dignity because it is a gift from God, and the innocent child within the womb deserves to be respected and protected against any danger. The Church firmly teaches that abortion is the killing of an innocent child and cannot be tolerated. The Church, in her mercy, recognizes the deep pain and trauma that abortion causes women, men, and families, and offers hope and healing to those struggling after having an abortion.
The issue of contraception is intimately linked with abortion. It may come as a surprise that contraception was actually legalized nationwide by the Supreme Court in Griswold v. Connecticut in 1965, eight years before Roe v. Wade (1973) legalized abortion. Why is this the case? The legalization of contraception necessarily guarantees the legalization of abortion. Contraceptive drugs, among other things, deceives a woman’s body to think that she is pregnant, even though she is not. Because of that, it can prevent implantation, turning into an abortifacient. Sometimes, however, contraception does not work as it should, allowing for implantation, resulting in pregnancy. Those who are seriously attempting to prevent pregnancy often have recourse to abortion: abortion is an easy, though very wrong, answer when the contraception fails. St. Paul VI’s encyclical, Humanae Vitae, was the first papal encyclical to condemn the use of contraception (1968). In this document, St. Paul VI argues for the unitive and procreative ends of marriage: each marital act must be open to life if it is to truly bring the couple together. Contraception frustrates this act because the couple is withholding fertility from each other. Natural Family Planning (NFP), however, promotes the openness to life and respect for the couple’s fertility that is in accord with the dignity given by God.
The Catholic Church receives her teaching that marriage is indissoluble from Christ Himself: “‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one.’ So they are no longer two but one. What therefore God has joined together, let no man put asunder” (Mt. 19:6). When a man and a woman are joined in marriage, they become one flesh–their marriage is a covenant, which can only be dissolved by the death of one of the partners. As such, the Church has never supported civil divorce, because that cannot dissolve marriages in the eyes of the Church. Even if a couple is “legally” divorced, they are still one flesh, according to the law of the Church. Therefore, the Church doesn’t encourage divorce, although only in extreme cases does she permit that separation. As the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) explains, “Divorce is a grave offense against the natural law. It claims to break the contract, to which the spouses freely consented, to live with each other till death. Divorce does injury to the covenant of salvation, of which sacramental marriage is a sign” (# 2384; and # 2383 and #2386). If a couple believes that they are living in an invalid marriage, they should approach the parish priest or the Diocesan Tribunal to discuss the possibility of a declaration of nullity, which declares that no marriage really existed between the two in the first place.
In June 2015, the U.S. Supreme Court legalized same-sex unions as “marriages” for the whole nation (see Obergefell v. Hodges). The Catholic Church, however, teaches that marriage is between one man and one woman, as established by God in the very beginning: “Therefore a man leaves his father and his mother and clings to his wife, and they become one flesh” (Gen. 2:24). Because God established marriage as a union between one man and one woman, unions between two women or two men cannot be considered marriages. Same-sex unions are directly contrary to the natural order, as God created man and woman for each other and the continuation of the human race (see Genesis 2:23 and CCC, no. 2357). While the Church seeks to help out those who struggle with same sex attractions, these individuals are called by God to live chaste lives, in conformity with the natural law established by God (CCC, # 2358).
Come join us next Sunday at 10:00 am for coffee and donuts at CAFÉ FERRER, in Guadalupe Hall inside the Family Life Center (across the main parking lot) and for a live (and lively!) discussion on matters of our Faith and our Church.