Thursday, March 1, 2012

From the Pulpit, At Last

Homilies on the Church's teaching on contraception are long overdue. To quote Jennifer Fulwiler:
A couple of weeks ago, our priest gave a homily about contraception. While speaking about the Health and Human Services mandate, our associate pastor, Fr. Jonathan Raia, made a few allusions to the fact that the Church believes that contraception is bad. There were over a thousand people packed into the building, and a slight but noticeable tension developed as he inched closer and closer to the subject. This most controversial of Catholic teachings had been splashed all over the news in recent days, ridiculed and denounced throughout popular culture, and the question hung in the air: “Is he going to go there?”
He did.

You can hear the whole homily on our parish website here. In the second half of his talk, he gently but unflinchingly explained that the Catholic Church teaches that contraception is wrong. He gave a bit of background about the reasoning behind this stance, cleared up some common misconceptions, and pointed people to resources where they could find out more about methods of Natural Family Planning. As he spoke, the thought came to mind:

I think we’re finally ready for this.

In the seven years that I’ve been going to Catholic churches, I’d never heard a priest speak so directly about the Church’s teaching in this area—and I can understand why. For decades our culture has perceived contraception as being akin to air or water: a universally good resource with no downside. Only an institution with the most nefarious motives would oppose everyone incorporating this invaluable blessing into their lives, the thinking went. And so I’m guessing that many of our priests felt like the misunderstanding on this topic was so deep and so widespread that they’d need hours of speaking time to even begin to address it properly, and thus avoided it in homilies. (I’ve seen quite a few parishes, for example, where it may not be preached from the pulpit, but parishioners are encouraged to get involved in marriage and family ministries, where the issue is discussed in a more interactive, personal setting.)

But things are changing now. Just as the tide has turned on the issue of abortion, I see it turning with contraception too. Even non-Catholic publications are conceding that that the Church may not be totally crazy when it says that artificial birth control is neither good for the individual nor for society. (Read entire article.)


MadMonarchist said...

From the time of Paul VI's encyclical on the subject I think many bishops and priests simply disagreed with the official Church position. Added to that, I think many priests considered it a lost cause to oppose it, fearing if they really made an issue out of it the Church would be all but empty the next Sunday save for the very old and the very young.

This may be the time it changes though because, in my experience anyway, most of the youth and young adults left anyway but may be coming back now that the consequences of a self-focused lifestyle are showing themselves.

I will (as ever) go back to consistency though. Obedience is absolute or it does not exist and the bishops need to be consistent in what they condemn and what they support. People need to be broken of the mentality that Church doctrine can change.

Anonymous said...

Great post! Thanks for sharing the homily...I also believe the tide is turning!

Flambeaux said...

Audio Sancto has several series by an excellent priest covering these and related matters available for streaming or download.

Fr. Erlenbush over at the New Theological Movement blog has several excellent articles, too.

More priests are having the courage to preach on these sensitive topics; those of us among the Faithful need to encourage them as they'll catch flak from Right, Left, and Center for preaching the Gospel.

And I must agree with MadMonarchist. It will come down to obedience. I expect that's why I've found St. Benedict's Rule and the discussions with my spiritual director so fruitful.

It will be a matter of holy families and holy monks restoring the Church, as it always is. I can't think of a single reform movement successfully initiated by the secular clergy.