Back in 2005, Canada’s Liberal government at the time voted in a law that redefined marriage and got rid of a host of references in other laws that referred to husband and wife, mother and father. Thus the biological family was replaced by a social construct defined by the state.
Dan Cere and Douglas Farrow, both professors at McGill University in Montreal, edited a book called Divorcing Marriage: Unveiling the dangers in Canada’s new social experiment . Farrow, who is a former Anglican, now Catholic, followed up that effort with a book of essays entitled Nation of Bastards: Essays on the end of marriage.
In the latter book, he talked about how redefining marriage from the traditional view of one woman and one man to two people who could be of the same sex replaced a biological reality of the natural family, an institution that preceded the state, with an abstraction, a social construct based on the number two, with no underlying justification for why it should be two people.
In Divorcing Marriage, the authors warned against divorcing marriage from procreation
This debate took place soon after I started writing for Catholic papers, and about four or five years after I started attending Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, then a Traditional Anglican Communion parish.
I was past child-bearing age at the time, and I hadn’t given the whole idea of contraception much thought, until I attended a prayer meeting on Parliament Hill that included Catholics and evangelicals. I am not someone who always thinks before I say something—sometimes it is only through musing out loud (or writing a blog post) that I discover what I think about something. So on this occasion, during the height of the marriage debate, I mused that learning how dangerous it is to divorce procreation from marriage from the standpoint of civil society, I was beginning to understand the Catholic teaching of the danger of divorcing sex from procreation. Somehow, this led to an discussion of what is “permitted” on the marriage bed, including, ahem, certain sexual activities that could not possibly be open to life.
A charismatic pastor got strangely vehement, saying, “Anything goes on the marriage bed,” as it to say, being heterosexually married meant you got a free pass for sterile sex, and for other activities.
It was kind of weird. But a light bulb when on in my brain. I realized the Catholic Church had the only morally consistent and principled arguments regarding the reservation of sexual activity to a man and a woman in a lifelong covenant and that sexual activity should be both open to life and for uniting more closely the couple in their bond. I suddenly became a believer in Humanae Vitae.
I also realized the Catholic Church’s teachings on chastity are hard, not only for those with same sex attraction but for heterosexuals, even within the context of marriage. In fact, chastity is so hard for all of us, we need divine help to live up to God’s standards, but those graces are there if we desire God with our whole heart.
Also, around that time, the Anglican Church of Canada, was undergoing a massively awful debate about whether to have same-sex blessings and one of the arguments that was cited among those on the progressive end was that Scripture, Tradition and Reason, the three-legged stool of Anglicanism, also needed Experience. And the experience of feminism, the explosion of the social sciences, and the experience of gay and lesbian Anglicans had to become a lens for interpreting the rest.
I remember thinking, gee, I’m so glad I’m in the Traditional Anglican Communion where we have none of these discussions, praise be to God.
Now, there’s talk the 50-year old encyclical Humanae Vitae is now under review. Yesterday, Pope Francis replaced the John Paul II Institute founded by the recently deceased Cardinal Caffarra, one of the four Dubia cardinals, with a new John Paul II Institute of Marriage and Family Studies.
Cardinal Carlo Caffarra, who died Sept. 6, was the founding president of that Institute. As a signatory to the dubia given to Pope Francis exactly a year ago today, he had serious concerns about Amoris Laetitia, interpretations of which he found incompatible with John Paul II’s teachings and the magisterium of the Church.
But Pope Francis, who signed Summa Familiae Cura in Colombia just two days after Cardinal Caffarra’s passing, writes that the family synods of 2014 and 2015 have brought a renewed awareness of “the new pastoral challenges to which the Christian community is called to respond.”
Contemporary anthropological and cultural changes, the Pope continues, require “a diversified and analytical approach” which cannot be “limited to pastoral and missionary practices” of the past.
Instead, he says, we must be able to interpret our faith in a context in which individuals are less supported than before as they deal with the complex realities of family life. Faithful to the teachings of Christ, the Pope continues, it is important to explore these “lights and shadows of family life” with realism, wisdom and love.
As we have seen, over the course of a very short time, progressive forces within the Church have moved rapidly to take over trusted institutions or appropriate the reputations or work of those who have held the line on Catholic teaching to advance the cause of undermining the Church’s teaching on human sexuality and marriage.
The question is: where does the re-imagining of the John Paul II Institute fit in?
Like many, I was struck by the sudden and unexpected nature of today’s motu proprio. The sudden changing of the name, structure, and focus of the Institute, especially so soon after its founding president’s death, seemed very odd.
Also odd, to my ears at least, was the wording of the new title. The “Pontifical John Paul II Theological Institute for Marriage and Family Sciences“. Sciences? Which sciences? The question of science, as it most commonly intersects with Church teaching at present, relates to the perceived supremacy of the empirical over the theological, as well as the “evolution” of doctrine based on a notion that modern man knows so much more than those who came before him that he has the wisdom to change what cannot be changed.
It seems more and more this idea of “Experience” trumping Revelation and Tradition, because we’re so much smarter now has gained ascendency in the Catholic Church, the place we hoped to finally find doctrinal peace.
Fasten your seatbelts, folks. But I tell you, this idea of Experience trumping Scripture and Tradition is an Anglican idea I was happy to toss overboard and plays no part in the Anglican patrimony we in the Anglicanorum Coetibus Society hope to cultivate both inside and outside the Catholic Church.