Catholic Church cannot change its teachings

This column is a response to the Oct. 11 staff editorial, “Pope, Catholic Church must act on statements.”

I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that the writers of the recent staff editorial about Pope Francis did little research into Catholic social teaching before writing the editorial. I can tell this because if they had done research, they would have found “Humanae Vitae,” an encyclical letter from Pope Paul VI. “Humanae Vitae” was written in 1968 to address the sexual revolution and to reaffirm Church teaching on marriage, parenthood and procreation. The first sentence of the encyclical would have explained everything the writers needed to know to understand why the Catholic Church opposes abortion, same-sex marriage and procreation: “The transmission of human life is a most serious role in which married people collaborate freely and responsibly with God the Creator.”

Graphic by Jack Ciolli and Sydney South
Graphic by Jack Ciolli and Sydney South

Church teaching is that intercourse is for the purpose of creating new life (that’s why it’s called procreation and not anti-creation). The Church opposes contraception because it stands in the way of procreation. The Church does, however, allow for the use of natural family planning methods for spacing out births. It’s not because the Church has some evil plan and doesn’t like contraception; rather, it is being consistent with the belief that the primary reason for sex is to bring forth the next generation. Contraception is seen as a barrier between husband and wife, and between a married couple and God.

Similarly, the Church opposes same-sex marriage because two men or two women cannot possibly produce a biological child between them. The Editorial Board of The PHOENIX is free to argue for the Church to change its position on same-sex marriage, but that does not change biological facts. Again, there is a clear consistency between Church teaching and the Church position on same-sex marriage. Because homosexual sex cannot be aimed toward producing children and because sex is only supposed to occur inside a marriage, it follows that the Church would oppose same-sex marriage and sex between a gay couple.

Finally, the editorial is incorrect on its weak assertion that the Church should stop condemning abortion. Without a view toward protecting the vulnerable, protecting every human life, there is no Catholic social teaching. For example, I may not agree with how the Catholic Church wants to go about immigration reform, but I understand it because the Church believes that harsh illegal immigration measures do not promote dignity and life. Because life is at the center of Church teaching, it makes sense for the Church to oppose abortion, the death penalty, euthanasia, etc. Church teaching on moral issues should not change with changing attitudes, because if the teaching is already the moral teaching, then changing would be taking the immoral stance. Morality does not change just because of attitudes. For example, taking the life of an innocent human child through abortion can never be moral, even if some Millennials think it should be.

I take issue with the ignorance of many liberal Catholics who think that Pope Francis is breaking new ground by saying that we should be welcoming to people who have had abortions or who are in same-sex relationships. Pope Francis was simply reiterating that the Catholic Church should be a place open to all people. For example, the Archdiocese of Chicago has had an “Archdiocese Gay and Lesbian Outreach” group (with weekly masses) since 1987. It would be understandable if the Editorial Board somehow missed a small group of gay Catholics in some parish halfway around the world, but it wasn’t even diligent enough to find a group in the same Archdiocese as Loyola.

This same Archdiocese also has an organization called “Project Rachel” as part of the Respect Life office. “Project Rachel is a sensitive, private, free and confidential experience with a network of specially trained priests and caring people who understand the painful road back from abortion,” according to the Respect Life office. Clearly the Church is already working to help those who have had an abortion feel like they are part of the Church community. The Church does not condemn people who have abortions, but only the act of abortion itself.

The Church is not a political party or a company trying to win loyal followers or customers. The Catholic Church’s teachings come from 2,000 years of tradition, but also reformation. It is woefully ignorant for an editorial board to suggest the Catholic Church change its teachings on social issues without any actual understanding of where Church teaching comes from. The Church cannot say it promotes life and also support abortion, or say that sex should be saved for marriage because children ideally should be born in wedlock and then support same-sex marriage. If the Editorial Board would like to learn more about Catholic social teaching and honestly feel there is no one at a Catholic university that could have given them a 10-minute primer on it, then I would be happy to loan them a copy of the Compendium of the Catholic Church.

Matt Lamb is a contributing columnist and vice president of College Republicans. You can contact him at mlamb4@luc.edu

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