Benedict XVI and Contraception, Part 3

Humanae Vitae Priests
Human Life International e-Newsletter
Volume 01, Number 22
July 31, 2008
Reproduced with Permission
Humanae Vitae Priests

Long before Pope Benedict XVI warned of the Dictatorship of Relativism, Cardinal Newman in his Bigletto speech voiced one of the outstanding definitions of relativism. In Newman's day liberalism was the word used for relativism. He noted:

And, I rejoice to say, to one great mischief I have from the first opposed myself. For thirty, forty, fifty years I have resisted to the best of my powers the spirit of liberalism in religion. Never did Holy Church need champions against it more sorely than now, when, alas! it is an error overspreading, as a snare, the whole earth; and on this great occasion, when it is natural for one who is in my place to look out upon the world, and upon Holy Church as in it, and upon her future, it will not, I hope, be considered out of place, if I renew the protest against it which I have made so often.

Liberalism in religion is the doctrine that there is no positive truth in religion, but that one creed is as good as another, and this is the teaching which is gaining substance and force daily. It is inconsistent with any recognition of any religion, as true. It teaches that all are to be tolerated, for all are matters of opinion. Revealed religion is not a truth, but a sentiment and a taste; not an objective fact, not miraculous; and it is the right of each individual to make it say just what strikes his fancy. Devotion is not necessarily founded on faith. Men may go to Protestant Churches and to Catholic, may get good from both and belong to neither. They may fraternise together in spiritual thoughts and feelings, without having any views at all of doctrine in common, or seeing the need of them. Since, then, religion is so personal a peculiarity and so private a possession, we must of necessity ignore it in the intercourse of man with man. If a man puts on a new religion every morning, what is that to you? It is as impertinent to think about a man's religion as about his sources of income or his management of his family. Religion is in no sense the bond of society.

It is no accident that Benedict XVI's first encyclical is entitled Deus Caritas Est, God is Love. In the encyclical, Benedict reminds us that "God's way of loving becomes the measure of human love." (#11) In one profound and simple sentence the Holy Father illumines the first step towards sanity and healing. When the "Word became flesh" Christ revealed that God's way of love is personal, exclusive, fruitful and self-emptying, and sealed in a covenant, which are all characteristics of true love between men and women.

At a conference celebrating the 40th Anniversary of Humanae Vitae, the Holy Father reminded us that, "no mechanical technique can substitute the act of love that husband and wife exchange as a sign of the greater mystery, in which they are protagonists and co-participants of creation." How does the search for the meaning of the human being relate to contraception, cohabitation and same sex unions? The Church's teaching against these acts is not arbitrary, but rather, protective of the human person, since none of these actions are sincerely personal, exclusive, fruitful nor completely self-giving, and therefore, can never measure up to God's way of loving. Only His way of love leads to happiness and fulfillment.

Nick Bagileo is Associate Dean for Programs and Administration for the John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family, at the Catholic University of America. This article is the third of three installments.