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By Dominic Francisco
In an effort to mislead faithful Catholics into embracing her own brand of sexual morality, the lady senator pulled out a quote from the young Joseph Ratzinger (now Pope Benedict XVI) to imply that a Catholic can disobey Church teaching if conscience so dictates. Now, anyone who purports to be an intellectual should at least take into account the author’s body of work. Quoting out of context is easy, but it’s juvenile. Ratzinger’s thought is more sophisticated than just answering an SWS survey question by “yes” or “no.”
For the senator’s reference, here was what Ratzinger said in 1991 — way before the German cardinal became Holy Father — about conscience: “It is of course undisputed that one must follow a certain conscience or at least not act against it. But whether the judgment of conscience or what one takes to be such, is always right, indeed whether it is infallible, is another question. For if this were the case, it would mean that there is no truth—at least not in moral and religious matters, which is to say, in the areas which constitute the very pillars of our existence.”
How about Humanae Vitae, whose ban on artificial contraception the senator so vociferously objects to? Unlike Santiago, the Pope won’t be swayed by flawed SWS surveys. Talking about Paul VI’s encyclical and the public acceptance of artificial contraception, Benedict XVI says in the 2010 book-length interview “Light of the World”:”… I would insist that statistics do not suffice as a criterion for morality. It is bad enough when public opinion polls become the criterion of political decisions and when politicians are more preoccupied with ‘How do I get more votes?’ than with ‘What is right?’ By the same token, the results of surveys about what people do or how they live is not in and of itself the measure of what is true and right.”
He then affirms his predecessor: “Paul VI has been proved prophetically right. He was convinced that society robs itself of its greatest hopes when it kills human beings through abortion. How many children are killed who might one day have been geniuses, who could have given humanity something new, who could have given us a new Mozart or some new technical discovery? We need to stop and think about the great human capacity that is being destroyed here—even quite apart from the fact that unborn children are human persons whose dignity and right to life we have to respect.”
For Benedict, man’s sinful nature is no reason to abandon Church teaching. The Pope doesn’t want to trivialize sexuality. Miriam and her cohorts should take that to heart.
“Paul VI wanted to say, and what is still correct as a main vision, is that if we separate sexuality and fecundity from each other in principle, which is what the use of the pill does, then sexuality becomes arbitrary,” he says in the book.
“The basic lines of Humanae Vitae are still correct. Finding ways to enable people to live the teaching, on the other hand, is a further question. I think that there will always be core groups of people who are really open to being interiorly convinced and fulfilled by the teaching and who then carry everyone else. We are sinners. But we should not take the failure to live up to this high moral standard as an authoritative objection to the truth.”
Contrary to what Santiago implies, the Pope won’t condone the use of pills (Group 1 carcinogens, according to WHO researchers) as a family planning method, even if this were dictated by conscience. But married couples can in fact plan and space childbirth. The Church approves of this, as proclaimed by Humanae Vitae, which Santiago has apparently read like a Supreme Court decision.
“After all,” Benedict says, “everyone knows that the Church affirms natural regulation of conception, which is not just a method, but also a way of life. Because it presupposes that couples take time for each other. And that is something fundamentally different from when I take the pill without binding myself interiorly to another person, so that I can jump into bed with a random acquaintance.”