Natural Family Planning: Nature's Way - God's Way

50. Christian Conscience and Humanae Vitae

Boniface Honings, age 58, is professor of moral theology and dean of the Faculty of Theology at the Pontifical Lateran University. He has written numerous articles on sexuality, both general and particularized: on HUMANAE VITAE, divorce, abortion, premarital sex, etc. He contributes to several international scientific reviews and is a consultor of the Pontifical Commission on justice and Peace.

N.B. by Father Zimmerman:

Because it is now 20 years after Father Honings wrote this, I asked him whether any changes should be made, lest his article be misunderstood. He asked that certain documents be added, which you will find at the end of this article. He asks that you read them lest his message which stresses the mercy of Christ be misunderstood.

In turn I ask the readers to keep in mind that the many quotations from Conferences of Bishops which he provides in this article should now be read with a grain of salt. They have no "theological value" because they do not comply with the requirements of the recent declaration about the limitations of the powers of Conferences of Bishops to teach doctrine, which requires conformity with official teachings of the Church, a unanimous vote of the bishops, or official approval by the Magisterium, all of which were not present when Bishops' Conferences wrote the passages which Fr. Honings quotes. Therefore, read with this caution in mind.

The fact that Fr. Honings quotes the now questionable passages of Bishops Conferences at such length and with apparent approval is in itself a warning that the entire article, which appears to welcome ignorance about the sinfulness of contraception as though this were of some advantage to couples, should be read with caution. Fr. Honings therefore welcomed the idea that the documents should be appended which are found below after the end of the article. The documents from the Pontifical Council for the Family and from the Congregation of the Clergy state that ignorance about the evil of contraception should be dispelled by proper teaching, and that the Confessor must make certain about the validity of the Sacrament before he dispenses Absolution:

(The Confessor) should also avail himself of confession to form the conscience of the faithful correctly - - an extremely important task - - by asking, where necessary, those questions which secure the integrity of confession and the validity of the sacrament. He should help the penitent to thank God for his mercy and assist him in making a firm purpose of amendment for his conduct of the moral life. He should never fail to encourage the penitent appropriately, offering him comfort and motivating him to do works of penance which are satisfaction for his sins and which help him to grow in virtue." Congregation of the Clergy, "The Priest and the Third Christian Millennium," 19 March 1999.

[End of statement by Fr. Zimmerman]

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