Humanae Vitae: truth, accompaniment, and culpability
May 30, 2018
Therefore, it must be emphasized once more that the pastoral intervention of the Church in support of the family is a matter of urgency. Every effort should be made to strengthen and develop pastoral care for the family, which should be treated as a real matter of priority, in the certainty that future evangelization depends largely on the domestic Church.” …The Church’s pastoral action must be progressive, also in the sense that it must follow the family, accompanying it step by step in the different stages of its formation and development (Familiaris Consortio 65).
I recently wrote an article about the 50th anniversary of Humanae Vitae that was critical of those who are wasting this anniversary by repeating the same strategies that may have done more harm than good over the past fifty years. I wanted to follow that article up by highlighting positive efforts being made to take advantage of this anniversary and add a few suggestions of my own. In that first article I shared some of what Pope Francis has to say about those who think that simply by restating the hard truths that they will adequately evangelize others. In this article, in the spirit of papal continuity, I want to pull from Saint John Paul II’s pontificate and what he has to say about the pastoral care and accompaniment of married couples and families.
This notion of accompaniment is crucial here, for we cannot make ourselves holy, but are rather saved “in bunches,” that is, as part of a community. The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith recently released a document titled Placuit Deothat says:
“The salvation that God offers us is not achieved with our own individual efforts alone, as neo-Pelagianism would contend. Rather, salvation is found in the relationships that are born from the incarnate Son of God and that form the communion of the Church” (PD 12).
As Pope Francis says, these neo-Pelagians “ultimately trust only in their own powers” (GE 49). But that’s not how grace works. Grace builds on nature and God primarily communicates his grace to us through natural means. Here’s an example. God can, and does, heal people miraculously, but the usual way that God heals us is through the efforts of other people (doctors, nurses, etc). We receive God’s grace through community, particularly the community of the Church. So when the Church accompanies someone (spiritually, pastorally, financially, etc) they are acting as a vehicle of God’s healing and transforming power.
So what does all this have to do with Humanae Vitae?