The Mind of the Church – Sensus Ecclesiæ

When young Marcel Lefebvre was trained in the French Seminary in Rome between 1923 and 1929, he learned that to be a Catholic, one had to study and embrace the teaching of the Catholic Church. And if ever there was a disagreement between one’s ideas and this teaching, one’s ideas had to be corrected.  This is what is called “to have a formed conscience”, which means in line with the teaching of the Church.

St Pius X, in explaining what Modernism is, clearly stated that for a modernist, personal conscience was more important than that teaching of the Church; doctrine and morality had to submit to this subjective conscience.

The exhortation Amoris Laetitia teaches that if a couple living in adultery sincerely think they have to remain in that situation, even living as husband and wife, then God Himself wants it. Now, we hear from another source, also leaning on the exhortation, that there are some situations that require the use of artifical contraceptives. It is Fr. Chiodi, newly appointed at the Pontifical Academy for Life by Pope Francis who said so in a conference in Rome last December 14.  In Amoris Laetitia the key word concerning those living in adultery is “discernment”, the priest has to discern the conscience of the couple in an irregular situation. Here, in the matter of contraception, the key word is “responsibility”.  Here are the words of Fr. Chiodi: “ … in situations when natural methods are impossible or unfeasible, other forms of responsibility need to be found. There are circumstances – I refer to Amoris Laetitia, Chapter 8 – that precisely for the sake of responsibility require contraception… then, an artificial method for the regulation of birth could be recognized as an act of responsibility…” (Faithful Insight, February 2018, p.30)

How far this is from the clear teaching of Pope Pius XI in his encyclical on Christian marriage:

“First consideration is due to the offspring, which many have the boldness to call the disagreeable burden of matrimony and which they say is to be carefully avoided by married people not through virtuous continence (which Christian law permits in matrimony when both parties consent) but by frustrating the marriage act. Some justify this criminal abuse on the ground that they are weary of children and wish to gratify their desires without their consequent burden. Others say that they cannot on the one hand remain continent nor on the other can they have children because of the difficulties whether on the part of the mother or on the part of family circumstances.

“But no reason, however grave, may be put forward by which anything intrinsically against nature may become conformable to nature and morally good. Since, therefore, the conjugal act is destined primarily by nature for the begetting of children, those who in exercising it deliberately frustrate its natural power and purpose sin against nature and commit a deed which is shameful and intrinsically vicious.

“Small wonder, therefore, if Holy Writ bears witness that the Divine Majesty regards with greatest detestation this horrible crime and at times has punished it with death. As St. Augustine notes, ‘Intercourse even with one’s legitimate wife is unlawful and wicked where the conception of the offspring is prevented. Onan, the son of Juda, did this and the Lord killed him for it.’ ” (nn. 53-55)