Tag Archives: Pope John Paul II

Read the Catechism in a Year: Day 1

St John Chrysostom (c.349—407) Archbishop of C...
St John Chrysostom (c.349—407) Archbishop of Constantinople (398—404) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Prologue (1 – 25)

“FATHER, … this is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.” “God our Savior desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” “There is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” – than the name of JESUS.


1 God, infinitely perfect and blessed in himself, in a plan of sheer goodness freely created man to make him share in his own blessed life. For this reason, at every time and in every place, God draws close to man. He calls man to seek him, to know him, to love him with all his strength. He calls together all men, scattered and divided by sin, into the unity of his family, the Church. To accomplish this, when the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son as Redeemer and Savior. In his Son and through him, he invites men to become, in the Holy Spirit, his adopted children and thus heirs of his blessed life.

2 So that this call should resound throughout the world, Christ sent forth the apostles he had chosen, commissioning them to proclaim the gospel: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age.” Strengthened by this mission, the apostles “went forth and preached everywhere, while the Lord worked with them and confirmed the message by the signs that attended it.”

3 Those who with God’s help have welcomed Christ’s call and freely responded to it are urged on by love of Christ to proclaim the Good News everywhere in the world. This treasure, received from the apostles, has been faithfully guarded by their successors. All Christ’s faithful are called to hand it on from generation to generation, by professing the faith, by living it in fraternal sharing, and by celebrating it in liturgy and prayer.


4 Quite early on, the name catechesis was given to the totality of the Church’s efforts to make disciples, to help men believe that Jesus is the Son of God so that believing they might have life in his name, and to educate and instruct them in this life, thus building up the body of Christ.

5 “Catechesis is an education in the faith of children, young people and adults which includes especially the teaching of Christian doctrine imparted, generally speaking, in an organic and systematic way, with a view to initiating the hearers into the fullness of Christian life.”

6 While not being formally identified with them, catechesis is built on a certain number of elements of the Church’s pastoral mission which have a catechetical aspect, that prepare for catechesis, or spring from it. They are: the initial proclamation of the Gospel or missionary preaching to arouse faith; examination of the reasons for belief; experience of Christian living; celebration of the sacraments; integration into the ecclesial community; and apostolic and missionary witness.

7 “Catechesis is intimately bound up with the whole of the Church’s life. Not only her geographical extension and numerical increase, but even more her inner growth and correspondence with God’s plan depend essentially on catechesis.”

8 Periods of renewal in the Church are also intense moments of catechesis. In the great era of the Fathers of the Church, saintly bishops devoted an important part of their ministry to catechesis. St. Cyril of Jerusalem and St. John Chrysostom, St. Ambrose and St. Augustine, and many other Fathers wrote catechetical works that remain models for us.

9 “The ministry of catechesis draws ever fresh energy from the councils. The Council of Trent is a noteworthy example of this. It gave catechesis priority in its constitutions and decrees. It lies at the origin of the Roman Catechism, which is also known by the name of that council and which is a work of the first rank as a summary of Christian teaching. …” The Council of Trent initiated a remarkable organization of the Church’s catechesis. Thanks to the work of holy bishops and theologians such as St. Peter Canisius, St. Charles Borromeo, St. Turibius of Mongrovejo or St. Robert Bellarmine, it occasioned the publication of numerous catechisms.

10 It is therefore no surprise that catechesis in the Church has again attracted attention in the wake of the Second Vatican Council, which Pope Paul VI considered the great catechism of modern times. The General Catechetical Directory (1971) the sessions of the Synod of Bishops devoted to evangelization (1974) and catechesis (1977), the apostolic exhortations Evangelii nuntiandi (1975) and Catechesi tradendae (1979), attest to this. The Extraordinary Synod of Bishops in 1985 asked “that a catechism or compendium of all Catholic doctrine regarding both faith and morals be composed” The Holy Father, Pope John Paul II, made the Synod’s wish his own, acknowledging that “this desire wholly corresponds to a real need of the universal Church and of the particular Churches.” He set in motion everything needed to carry out the Synod Fathers’ wish.

Copyright © 1994, United States Catholic Conference, Inc. [Get your own copy of the Catechism here.]

Powered by CatechismAPI and Flocknote.com – Simple email newsletters and texting for parishes, dioceses, schools, teams and other orgs.


Christ of the Abyss, Christ of the Deep — Video

In Jesus Christ, the Word made flesh, time becomes a dimension of God, who is himself eternal. -- Pope John Paul II, Apostolic Letter, Tertio Millennio Adveniente, 1994.

Despite His care on behalf of them, biblical history is replete in both the Old and New Testament with the attempts by men to shun or deny the will of the one true God Who created them. As might be recalled, Jesus of Nazareth (God with us) was taken to a nearby cliff  with the intent to push him over it by those who couldn’t bear listening to His message. But as scripture mysteriously reveals, He passed through them…

Today, there are still those who would take the message of Christ and the salvation he offers and throw it off a cliff, even bury it into the abyss of the deepest sea if they could… But, guess what? Time for man is no eternal abyss, it ends, nor is the sea void of the eternal message of Christ…



9 If I take my wings early in the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea: 10 Even there also shall thy hand lead me: and thy right hand shall hold me.

EDITOR NOTE: Christ of the Deep is a copy of “Il Cristo Degli Abssi,” located in the Mediterranean Sea near Genoa, Italy. The original statue was cast by artist Guido Galletti, and was modeled after Italian swimmer/diver Duillo Mercanet. It was placed in 1954. In 1961 Italian SCUBA entrepreneur Egidi Cressi commissioned the second casting from the original mold, and donated it to the Underwater Society of America. The statue ended up in storage at O’Hare airport in Chicago, waiting for a home. Senator Spessard Holland of Florida helped John Pennekamp Park to get the nod, where it was placed on August 25, 1965. Today, Christ of the Abyss is one of the most famous and popular underwater sites in the only underwater park in the world.


Pope John Paul II, September 13, 2001: “We must stop these people who kill in the name of God.”

World Trade Center Fallen Heroes American Flag
The Pope and 9/11
By Hon. James R. Nicholson
Former U.S. Ambassador to the Holy See Jim Nicholson meets with Bl. John Paul II

Pope John Paul II, although a man of the Church, was possessed with an uncommon sense for the dynamics of globalism and the complexities of peoples and cultures.

My first one-on-one meeting with Pope John Paul II was on September 13, 2001. The occasion was the formal presentation of my diplomatic credentials as the new United States Ambassador to the Holy See.  It was planned to be a festive occasion; instead, it was a sad event as the world was grieving the horrific events of just 48 hours prior.

The first thing the Pope said to me was how sorry he felt for my country, which had just been attacked, and how sad it made him feel.  We next said a prayer together for the victims and their families.

Then the Pope said something very profound and very revealing of his acute grasp of international terrorism.  He said, “Ambassador Nicholson, this was an attack, not just on the United States, but on all of humanity.”  And, then he added, “We must stop these people who kill in the name of God.”

The Pope’s words about the attackers of America on 9/11, and our need, indeed our moral obligation “to do something” was invaluable to the U.S. in assembling a “Coalition of the Willing,” as President Bush called it.  It was the Pope’s instant and keen grasp of the situation – the Afghanistan-based launching of these terrorist attacks — that compelled him to lend his moral influence to his friend and ally, the United States.

He knew exactly what he was saying and the effect it would have on the other countries who were trying to decide whether or not to join us as military partners in Afghanistan against Al Qaeda and its collaborators. The Pope didn’t pause, hesitate or equivocate when he communicated through me to our President and the leaders of like-minded countries to push back against those stateless terrorists who tried to align themselves under the protective wall of Afghanistan’s sovereignty.

Pope John Paul II grew up under the repressive regimes of both the Nazis and the Communists.  He knew well the effects on freedom and dignity that those with an ideological agenda and matching military resources could wreak on innocent people.

The Pope had played a key role in what George Weigel call the “revolution of conscience” in Poland. He was instrumental in the demise of the Soviet Union and European Communism, and he was well practiced in the intricacies of using discreet moral force to influence international bodies.

Being first and foremost a man of peace, Pope John Paul II also understood the Just War doctrine of the Church and the responsibility of leaders to protect innocent people from evil forces. He respected President Bush and his “prudential judgment” in deciding what was legitimate to protect the common good.

In 2004, President Bush, with gratitude and respect for his solidarity with American values, presented the Pope with the Medal of Freedom, which is the highest award the United States bestows on a civilian.

Jim Nicholson is the former U.S. Ambassador to the Holy See


Pope Benedict XVI’s beatification homily: full text

“In a word: he helped us not to fear the truth, because truth is the guarantee of liberty.”

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Six years ago we gathered in this Square to celebrate the funeral of Pope John Paul II. Our grief at his loss was deep, but even greater was our sense of an immense grace which embraced Rome and the whole world: a grace which was in some way the fruit of my beloved predecessor’s entire life, and especially of his witness in suffering. Even then we perceived the fragrance of his sanctity, and in any number of ways God’s People showed their veneration for him. For this reason, with all due respect for the Church’s canonical norms, I wanted his cause of beatification to move forward with reasonable haste. And now the longed-for day has come; it came quickly because this is what was pleasing to the Lord: John Paul II is blessed!

I would like to offer a cordial greeting to all of you who on this happy occasion have come in such great numbers to Rome from all over the world – cardinals, patriarchs of the Eastern Catholic Churches, brother bishops and priests, official delegations, ambassadors and civil authorities, consecrated men and women and lay faithful, and I extend that greeting to all those who join us by radio and television.

Today is the Second Sunday of Easter, which Blessed John Paul II entitled Divine Mercy Sunday. The date was chosen for today’s celebration because, in God’s providence, my predecessor died on the vigil of this feast. Today is also the first day of May, Mary’s month, and the liturgical memorial of Saint Joseph the Worker. All these elements serve to enrich our prayer, they help us in our pilgrimage through time and space; but in heaven a very different celebration is taking place among the angels and saints! Even so, God is but one, and one too is Christ the Lord, who like a bridge joins earth to heaven. At this moment we feel closer than ever, sharing as it were in the liturgy of heaven.

“Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe” (Jn 20:29). In today’s Gospel Jesus proclaims this beatitude: the beatitude of faith. For us, it is particularly striking because we are gathered to celebrate a beatification, but even more so because today the one proclaimed blessed is a Pope, a Successor of Peter, one who was called to confirm his brethren in the faith. John Paul II is blessed because of his faith, a strong, generous and apostolic faith. We think at once of another beatitude: “Blessed are you, Simon, son of Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father in heaven” (Mt 16:17). What did our heavenly Father reveal to Simon? That Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God. Because of this faith, Simon becomes Peter, the rock on which Jesus can build his Church. The eternal beatitude of John Paul II, which today the Church rejoices to proclaim, is wholly contained in these sayings of Jesus: “Blessed are you, Simon” and “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe!” It is the beatitude of faith, which John Paul II also received as a gift from God the Father for the building up of Christ’s Church.

Our thoughts turn to yet another beatitude, one which appears in the Gospel before all others. It is the beatitude of the Virgin Mary, the Mother of the Redeemer. Mary, who had just conceived Jesus, was told by Saint Elizabeth: “Blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfilment of what was spoken to her by the Lord” (Lk 1:45). The beatitude of faith has its model in Mary, and all of us rejoice that the beatification of John Paul II takes place on this first day of the month of Mary, beneath the maternal gaze of the one who by her faith sustained the faith of the Apostles and constantly sustains the faith of their successors, especially those called to occupy the Chair of Peter. Mary does not appear in the accounts of Christ’s resurrection, yet hers is, as it were, a continual, hidden presence: she is the Mother to whom Jesus entrusted each of his disciples and the entire community. In particular we can see how Saint John and Saint Luke record the powerful, maternal presence of Mary in the passages preceding those read in today’s Gospel and first reading. In the account of Jesus’ death, Mary appears at the foot of the cross (Jn 19:25), and at the beginning of the Acts of the Apostles she is seen in the midst of the disciples gathered in prayer in the Upper Room (Acts 1:14).

Today’s second reading also speaks to us of faith. Saint Peter himself, filled with spiritual enthusiasm, points out to the newly-baptized the reason for their hope and their joy. I like to think how in this passage, at the beginning of his First Letter, Peter does not use language of exhortation; instead, he states a fact. He writes: “you rejoice”, and he adds: “you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and rejoice with an indescribable and glorious joy, for you are receiving the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls” (1 Pet 1:6, 8-9). All these verbs are in the indicative, because a new reality has come about in Christ’s resurrection, a reality to which faith opens the door. “This is the Lord’s doing”, says the Psalm (118:23), and “it is marvelous in our eyes”, the eyes of faith.

Dear brothers and sisters, today our eyes behold, in the full spiritual light of the risen Christ, the beloved and revered figure of John Paul II. Today his name is added to the host of those whom he proclaimed saints and blesseds during the almost twenty-seven years of his pontificate, thereby forcefully emphasizing the universal vocation to the heights of the Christian life, to holiness, taught by the conciliar Constitution on the Church Lumen Gentium. All of us, as members of the people of God – bishops, priests, deacons, laity, men and women religious – are making our pilgrim way to the heavenly homeland where the Virgin Mary has preceded us, associated as she was in a unique and perfect way to the mystery of Christ and the Church. Karol Wojtyla took part in the Second Vatican Council, first as an auxiliary Bishop and then as Archbishop of Kraków. He was fully aware that the Council’s decision to devote the last chapter of its Constitution on the Church to Mary meant that the Mother of the Redeemer is held up as an image and model of holiness for every Christian and for the entire Church. This was the theological vision which Blessed John Paul II discovered as a young man and subsequently maintained and deepened throughout his life. A vision which is expressed in the scriptural image of the crucified Christ with Mary, his Mother, at his side. This icon from the Gospel of John (19:25-27) was taken up in the episcopal and later the papal coat-of-arms of Karol Wojtyla: a golden cross with the letter “M” on the lower right and the motto “Totus tuus”, drawn from the well-known words of Saint Louis Marie Grignion de Montfort in which Karol Wojtyla found a guiding light for his life: “Totus tuus ego sum et omnia mea tua sunt. Accipio te in mea omnia. Praebe mihi cor tuum, Maria – I belong entirely to you, and all that I have is yours. I take you for my all. O Mary, give me your heart” (Treatise on True Devotion to the Blessed Virgin, 266).

In his Testament, the new Blessed wrote: “When, on 16 October 1978, the Conclave of Cardinals chose John Paul II, the Primate of Poland, Cardinal Stefan Wyszynski, said to me: ‘The task of the new Pope will be to lead the Church into the Third Millennium’”. And the Pope added: “I would like once again to express my gratitude to the Holy Spirit for the great gift of the Second Vatican Council, to which, together with the whole Church – and especially with the whole episcopate – I feel indebted. I am convinced that it will long be granted to the new generations to draw from the treasures that this Council of the twentieth century has lavished upon us. As a Bishop who took part in the Council from the first to the last day, I desire to entrust this great patrimony to all who are and will be called in the future to put it into practice. For my part, I thank the Eternal Shepherd, who has enabled me to serve this very great cause in the course of all the years of my Pontificate”. And what is this “cause”? It is the same one that John Paul II presented during his first solemn Mass in Saint Peter’s Square in the unforgettable words: “Do not be afraid! Open, open wide the doors to Christ!” What the newly-elected Pope asked of everyone, he was himself the first to do: society, culture, political and economic systems he opened up to Christ, turning back with the strength of a titan – a strength which came to him from God – a tide which appeared irreversible. By his witness of faith, love and apostolic courage, accompanied by great human charisma, this exemplary son of Poland helped believers throughout the world not to be afraid to be called Christian, to belong to the Church, to speak of the Gospel. In a word: he helped us not to fear the truth, because truth is the guarantee of liberty. To put it even more succinctly: he gave us the strength to believe in Christ, because Christ is Redemptor hominis, the Redeemer of man. This was the theme of his first encyclical, and the thread which runs though all the others.

When Karol Wojtyla ascended to the throne of Peter, he brought with him a deep understanding of the difference between Marxism and Christianity, based on their respective visions of man. This was his message: man is the way of the Church, and Christ is the way of man. With this message, which is the great legacy of the Second Vatican Council and of its “helmsman”, the Servant of God Pope Paul VI, John Paul II led the People of God across the threshold of the Third Millennium, which thanks to Christ he was able to call “the threshold of hope”. Throughout the long journey of preparation for the great Jubilee he directed Christianity once again to the future, the future of God, which transcends history while nonetheless directly affecting it. He rightly reclaimed for Christianity that impulse of hope which had in some sense faltered before Marxism and the ideology of progress. He restored to Christianity its true face as a religion of hope, to be lived in history in an “Advent” spirit, in a personal and communitarian existence directed to Christ, the fullness of humanity and the fulfillment of all our longings for justice and peace.

Finally, on a more personal note, I would like to thank God for the gift of having worked for many years with Blessed Pope John Paul II. I had known him earlier and had esteemed him, but for twenty-three years, beginning in 1982 after he called me to Rome to be Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, I was at his side and came to revere him all the more. My own service was sustained by his spiritual depth and by the richness of his insights. His example of prayer continually impressed and edified me: he remained deeply united to God even amid the many demands of his ministry. Then too, there was his witness in suffering: the Lord gradually stripped him of everything, yet he remained ever a “rock”, as Christ desired. His profound humility, grounded in close union with Christ, enabled him to continue to lead the Church and to give to the world a message which became all the more eloquent as his physical strength declined. In this way he lived out in an extraordinary way the vocation of every priest and bishop to become completely one with Jesus, whom he daily receives and offers in the Eucharist.

Blessed are you, beloved Pope John Paul II, because you believed! Continue, we implore you, to sustain from heaven the faith of God’s people. Amen.


(Full Texts) About John C. Ford, S.J. — Newly released records reveal advisers to Pope Paul VI Pontifical Commission on Population, Family and Birth-rate were stacked in favor of changing church teaching on contraception

During an audience of Pope Paul VI in 1977
Pope Paul VI in 1977

“In 2011, Grisez judged that he was no longer bound to keep these documents secret for two reasons: (1) he never undertook to keep them secret; and (2) after more than 44 years, the publication of these documents is hardly likely to harm the Church and may well benefit her.”

Germain Grisez’s explanation of the release of commission documents

EDITOR NOTE: As you read on, keep in mind the uncountable times during the last 44 years that this very same commission has been used by modernist’s as justification to bludgeon the hierarchy of the Church on the issue of contraception…

First, the OSV story followed by texts.

Church birth control commission docs unveiled

New records show pope’s advisers were stacked in favor of changing Church teaching. Intentionally?

By Russell Shaw – OSV Newsweekly, 2/27/2011

Information provided by a prominent American theologian close to the famous papal “birth control commission” of the 1960s shows it was tilted in favor of changing Church teaching on contraception from the start. Pope Paul VI eventually said no to the commission and reaffirmed Church teaching in his 1968 encyclical Humanae Vitae (“Of Human Life”).

The new information depicts the commission’s secretary general as a supporter of change who influenced the commission’s proceedings to produce that result. It also suggests a substantial number of members and advisers of the body were predisposed in favor of change, or at least more than merely open to it.

Jesuit Father John C. Ford, an American moral theologian with the commission who opposed change, is quoted as saying that far from pushing the commission the other way, Pope Paul “wanted to give the proponents of change every opportunity to make their case.”

Favoring an outcome

The new disclosures are contained in a biographical sketch of Father Ford by Germain G. Grisez, who worked with the priest in Rome during a critical period in the commission’s proceedings. The sketch appears together with several previously unpublished documents on his website (www.twotlj.org). Grisez is the author of numerous books and articles, including an influential three-volume treatment of moral theology.

In brief, the story he tells is this.

Blessed Pope John XXIII established the Pontifical Commission on Population, Family and Birth-rate — popularly known as the birth control commission — in March 1963, shortly before his death. Its job was to prepare for the Holy See’s participation in a conference organized by the United Nations and the World Health Organization.

Dominican Father Henri de Riedmatten of the Vatican’s Secretariat of State was named secretary general of the new body. According to Grisez, the priest “single-handedly managed the commission’s work,” even after Pope Paul, who succeeded Pope John, appointed Cardinal Alfredo Ottaviani, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, its president. The priest’s support for change could be seen in arranging meeting agendas and shaping documents — including his final report to the pope — to favor this outcome.

Pope Paul expanded the commission’s membership and mandate in June 1964. In October he named Father Ford, then teaching at The Catholic University of America, to serve with the body. At that time considered possibly the leading Catholic moral theologian in the United States, the priest had drawn attention during World War II with a stinging critique of American and British saturation bombing of German and Japanese cities.

Teaching ‘reformable’

By the time the commission met in the spring of 1965, Grisez reports, 12 of 19 members of its theological section thought the Church’s teaching on contraception was “reformable” — it could be changed. Father Ford did not.

The Second Vatican Council, then nearing its close, left the contraception issue to be resolved after the commission finished its work. The pope now reorganized the commission, naming the previous members “expert advisers” to a group of 16 cardinals and bishops who were the actual members. Father de Riedmatten then scheduled a cluster of meetings in spring and summer of 1966, culminating in a June 20-25 gathering of the 16 prelates to reach conclusions.

Father Ford by now was one of a minority of four within the 19-member theological section who supported the Church’s teaching against contraception. The others were moral theologians Jesuit Father Marcelino Zalba, Redemptorist Father Jan Visser and sociologist Jesuit Father Stanislas de Lestapis. All were prominent scholars.

At the climactic meeting of cardinals and bishops, Grisez writes, there was “little discussion, and no minds were changed.” On the crucial question of whether every contraceptive act is wrong, the vote was 9 no, 3 yes, and 3 abstentions.

Of the commission’s three American members, Cardinal Lawrence Shehan of Baltimore and Archbishop (later, Cardinal) John Dearden of Detroit voted no, and Archbishop Leo Binz of St. Paul and Minneapolis voted yes. Archbishop Karol Wojtyla of Krakow — later, Pope John Paul II — who was expected to be a solid vote against contraception, had been prevented from attending the meeting by the communist authorities in Poland.

Cool reception

Father de Riedmatten prepared his final report and submitted it to the pope on June 27. Grisez recalls that he and Father Ford were “appalled” by how biased it was. At Cardinal Ottaviani’s request, he and the priest prepared a document rebutting the pro-contraception arguments, and that document also presumably went to Pope Paul.

In the spring of 1967, selected theological documents from the commission, misidentified as the “majority report” and the “minority report,” were leaked to some media, evidently to put pressure on Pope Paul. But in July 1968, the pope issued Humanae Vitae, which unequivocally affirms that every contraceptive act is wrong.

Back in the United States, Father Ford returned to the seminary in Weston, Mass., where he had taught for many years, but was received coolly, especially after Humanae Vitae came out. Grisez describes him as “dismayed but not surprised” by dissent from the encyclical on the part of many academics and some bishops. Retiring from teaching, he spent his last years doing pastoral work and died Jan. 14, 1989, at the age of 86.

Russell Shaw is an OSV contributing editor.

Benefit (sidebar)

“Certain official documents of the Pontifical Commission on Population, Family and Birth-rate are published here [http://osv.cm/hjcyaA] without permission under the limitation of copyright called fair use, inasmuch as the documents on which [Jesuit Father John C.] Ford and [Germain] Grisez collaborated could not be accurately understood and fairly evaluated without the otherwise unavailable commission documents to which they were responding.

“In 2011, Grisez judged that he was no longer bound to keep these documents secret for two reasons: (1) he never undertook to keep them secret; and (2) after more than 44 years, the publication of these documents is hardly likely to harm the Church and may well benefit her.”

— Germain Grisez’s explanation of the release of commission documents

Text(s) source…

About John C. Ford, S.J.

This biography includes links in red both to some of the official documents of Pope Paul VI’sCommission on Population, Family, and Birth-rate, and to a response to that body’s final report, prepared by Ford and Grisez at the request of Alfredo Cardinal Ottaviani, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, and delivered by him to Pope Paul VI.

John Cuthbert Ford, S.J., was born on December 20, 1902, at 151 Stanwood Street, in the Massachusetts town of Dorchester. His grandparents were Irish immigrants. His parents, Michael Ford and Hanna Cuthbert, married in St. Joseph’s Church, Lynn, Massachusetts, in 1900. They had three children. John, their second child and only son, was baptized on June 4, 1903.

The family soon moved to a nicer neighborhood in Brookline, Massachusetts, where the boy’s parents sent him to a public grade school. While in grade school, he became an altar boy at his parish, and eventually head altar boy. His pastor recommended that John enroll in a college preparatory program at the Jesuits’ Boston College High School.

Impressed by the piety and character of his Jesuit teachers, John awakened one morning during his final year at BC High with the clear conviction: “I am going to be a Jesuit!” Confident that this was God’s call, he at once committed himself and never looked back. On August 14, 1920, he entered a two-year novitiate and began his formation as a member of the Society of Jesus.

During the first year, especially as he finished a thirty-day retreat according to St. Ignatius’s Spiritual Exercises,Ford joyfully felt that all was well. But in 1921 he contracted tuberculosis and was laid up much of the time. In July 1922, he was sent for treatment at a Jesuit nursing unit in Monroe, New York. In October he was told he might be dismissed from the Society.

He recovered sufficiently, however, to be allowed to make his first vows on February 8, 1923. That fall, Ford began his first two years of college at Shadowbrook in Lenox, Massachusetts. During 1925–28, he studied philosophy and other college-level courses at Weston College in Weston, Massachusetts. He received his A.B. in 1927 and Ph.L. in 1928.

In the fall of 1928 Ford began what normally was a three-year “regency,” a period of service—in his case teaching Latin to freshmen at Boston College. Around the end of the first year, however, he suffered a recurrence of tuberculosis. His superiors curtailed his regency and, in the fall of 1929, sent him back to Weston to study theology. Though recovering only gradually from his illness, he did well in his studies, was ordained to the priesthood on June 20, 1932, completed his seminary work, and received the S.T.L. in 1933.

To compensate for his abbreviated regency, Ford was assigned to teach philosophical psychology at Weston College in 1933–34. In 1934–35, he completed his formal Jesuit formation by doing tertianship (a year of study and prayer rounding out the spiritual formation begun in the novitiate). In the fall of 1935, Ford’s superiors sent him for two more years of intellectual formation, this time in moral theology at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome. He received his S.T.D. in 1937. His doctoral dissertation was:The Validity of Virginal Marriage. The topic pertained to canon law and sacramental theology as well as to moral theology.

Returning to the United States, Ford made final profession on August 15, 1937. With that, the thirty-four-year-old John Cuthbert Ford, S.J, S.T.D., was ready to begin his career as a moral theologian.

In Rome, Ford had studied with two leading moralists of the time: Arthur Vermeersch, S.J., a Belgian, who died in the summer of 1936; and Franz Hürth, S.J., a German, under whom Ford completed his dissertation.

Ford greatly admired Vermeersch’s creativity, rejection of moral minimalism, and tough-mindedness. The Belgian Jesuit had broken fresh ground, not least with a book on tolerance. As the framework of his systematic moral theology, Vermeersch used the virtues rather than the Ten Commandments, and not only catalogued sins to be avoided but dealt with the positive side of Christian life. He was careful not to use weak philosophical arguments and scriptural texts taken out of context to support the Church’s moral teachings.

Reflecting on Vermeersch’s approach, Ford asked himself: “How do we know that the Church’s moral teachings are true?” His conclusion: Because Jesus commissioned the Church to teach the baptized all that he commanded, she teaches in the name of Christ. Thus we can be sure that all the moral norms the Catholic Church has taught constantly and firmly are true. That she has taught them as she has makes it clear that they must be grounded in divine revelation itself, even if no Scripture text mentions them.

Throughout his career, therefore, Ford regarded as unquestionable all the moral norms that the Church had constantly and firmly taught as binding on the consciences of the faithful. At the same time, he seldom offered scriptural or philosophical arguments for any of them, urged care in applying them, and was open-minded about matters regarding which the Church had not yet taught at all or had not taught constantly and firmly.

From 1937–45 Ford was Professor of Moral Theology at his alma mater, Weston College. During the early years, he also studied law at Boston College Law School, where he received his LL.B. in 1941. In 1940 a group of Jesuit scholars, including Ford, founded the journal Theological Studies. The plan called for an annual survey of current developments in Catholic theology. Initially, Ford contributed a section on moral theology, but beginning in 1942 he (and later others) made “Notes on Moral Theology” a regular and distinctive feature of the journal.

During those years a topic Ford worked on made him famous: In 1944 he published a forty-nine page article cogently arguing that the rights of the innocent were being violated by the obliteration bombing which the United States and the United Kingdom were even then conducting. In 1945, having mentioned in “Notes on Moral Theology” the atrocities committed by the Soviets, Nazis, and Japanese, Ford spoke bluntly of “the greatest and most extensive single atrocity in the history of all this period, our atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.”

Musically talented and gregarious, Ford enjoyed playing the piano and partying with his fellow Jesuits. In the early 1940s, his drinking got out of hand. Realizing this, he obtained treatment from Dr. William Silkwood at Towns Hospital in New York, regained his sobriety, and became friendly with one of A.A.’s co-founders, Bill Wilson. Finding that A.A. was more effective than previous organizations at helping alcoholics remain sober, Ford subsequently sought to ensure that A.A. would not be problematic to Catholics and would be recommended to Catholic alcoholics by their pastors. In 1948 he participated in a summer program of Alcohol Studies at Yale University; he then served as a regular lecturer in that program for many years. He also personally helped many fellow alcoholics, especially after he retired from teaching in 1969.

The experience of alcoholism nurtured Ford’s previous interest in the psychological aspects of moral life and in people’s complex, psycho-moral problems. Through the 1950s and ’60s he continued reading in psychology, conferring with professionals in the field, and addressing psycho-moral issues in his writings. Catholic professionals and pastors, including bishops, as well as many lay people with problems increasingly sought his advice and help not only with alcoholism but with other addictive behaviors, sexual problems, scrupulosity, and so on. Competent, compassionate, and generous with his time, Ford by his confidential pastoral work provided great though little-noticed service to the Church.

From 1945–59 his superiors also used him to meet various urgent needs. In 1945 he was called to Rome to serve as Professor of Moral Theology at the Gregorian University. In 1947–48 he was back at Weston, but from 1948–51 he taught ethics and religion at Boston College. Then, while continuing at Weston from 1951–59, he spent several semesters at Jesuit theologates in West Baden, Indiana, and St. Mary’s, Kansas.

When Ford went to Rome in 1945, he gladly handed over the task of doing “Notes on Moral Theology” to Gerald Kelly, S.J., Professor of Moral Theology at St. Mary’s College in Kansas, and a friend since their years together as graduate students in Rome; Kelly continued the annual survey through 1954. Over the years, their friendship grew closer. The two shared the view that moral theology needed a renewal that would be both thoroughgoing and faithful to Tradition—that is, to the moral truths the Church had received and handed down.

Ford liked to analyze issues and formulate reasoned judgments on them, but he disliked research work, which Kelly enjoyed and was good at. In the early 1950s, the two men decided to collaborate on a series of volumes developing and systematizing their work on matters that they, and others after 1954, had dealt with in “Notes.” The general title of the volumes would be Contemporary Moral Theology.

The first, Questions in Fundamental Moral Theology,was published in 1958 and was reprinted five times in six years. The second volume, Marriage Questions, appeared in 1963. Well received initially, it was reprinted the following year. In it, Ford and Kelly clearly explained and confidently defended relevant constant and firm teachings of the Church, including that on contraception, while exercising their usual care to promote sound and gentle pastoral practices, and not to overstate moral responsibilities.

Meanwhile, important changes were occurring. Pius XII died in 1958 and Cardinal Angelo Roncalli became Pope John XXIII. On January 25, 1959, he announced that he had decided to convoke Vatican II. In the fall of that year, Ford began seven years as Professor of Moral Theology at The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., looking forward with enthusiasm to both the new pontificate and his new assignment.

Though Ford never publicly criticized Pius XII or the Roman Curia, he shared the dissatisfaction then common among theologians with the overly cautious attitude of the Holy See toward innovations of any sort. He also thought Pius XII had attempted to settle some difficult moral questions without adequate study and reflection. Thus, Ford was pleased by the more open approach of the new pontificate and looked forward to the coming Council in the hope that it would pave the way for needed renewal in the Church, not least in moral theology.

The last months of 1962 were good neither for the Church nor for Ford. The first session of Vatican II ended with much less accomplished than Pope John had hoped, and the Pope himself was mortally ill. Ford had been working too hard and became exhausted. There was no recurrence of tuberculosis, but the disease had weakened him, and he now became diabetic. Hospitalized in January 1963, he obtained a semester’s leave-of-absence and spent much of the following eight months regaining his health.

While Ford was recuperating, John XXIII created on April 27, 1963 (thirty-seven days before his death), a Pontifical Commission on Population, Family, and Birth-rate. Its specific purpose was to prepare for the Holy See’s participation in a coming conference sponsored by the United Nations and the World Health Organization. For that reason, the Rev. Henri de Riedmatten, O.P., who worked in the Holy See’s Secretariat of State, was named the Commission’s Secretary General, and de Riedmatten single-handedly managed the Commission’s work even after Cardinal Ottaviani, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, was named its President in February of 1966.

Pope John died on June 3, 1963. Cardinal Giovanni Montini, a man more inclined to entertain possibilities for doctrinal development than his three immediate predecessors, began his pontificate as Paul VI on June 21.

Until then, hardly any Catholics publicly defended contraception. By the end of that year, however, three European theologians had published articles challenging the received teaching. Others, who had been added to Pope John’s Pontifical Commission, urged Paul VI to expand that body’s mandate to consider the questions being raised about contraception, including whether using the birth control pill might be morally acceptable. Soon many other Catholics spoke up, including the Dutch and English bishops, who disagreed with one another.

Early in 1964, at Paul VI’s direction, a confidential inquiry was carried out among the bishops around the world about developments on these matters in their territories, and about their own views. Cardinal Patrick A. O’Boyle of Washington, D.C., then head of the U.S. bishops’ conference, asked Ford to help prepare the report for the United States. On June 6 Ford had the first of several private audiences with Paul VI on what was becoming a challenging problem.

Confident of the truth of the Church’s teaching on contraception that Pope Pius XI had reaffirmed in his encyclical, Casti Connubii, and reassured by the reports he was receiving from bishops around the world, Pope Paul had nevertheless been persuaded that use of the birth control pill might not be contraception. He therefore believed that a thorough study was needed to ensure that the Church would not ask more of faithful Catholic married couples than God did.

Because of the complexity and delicacy of the matter, Paul VI thought that the Council was not the suitable place to consider it. So, he decided to expand the Commission again and announce its work, which he did on June 23, 1964. In doing so, he did not spell out his mandate to the expanded Commission, but indicated it by mentioning, not the teaching of Pius XI (who had taught that contraception is always gravely wrong) but that of Pius XII (who had rejected a forerunner of the pill).

That same spring, Grisez had written his first book,Contraception and the Natural Law. Having read Marriage Questions, he asked Father Ford to review the manuscript before submitting it to a publisher. Amidst a great deal of other work that summer, Ford read it, made helpful suggestions, and strongly encouraged publication.

On August 2, 1964, Gerald Kelly, Ford’s collaborator and his close friend of almost thirty years, died.

In October, Paul VI appointed Ford to the Pontifical Commission on Population, Family, and Birth-rate. Grisez congratulated him, and over the following months the two occasionally had telephone conversations about developments, although Ford, respecting the confidentiality of the Commission’s proceedings, said little about what he was doing. Thus, while mentioning his participation in a meeting in the spring of 1965, Ford told Grisez nothing about what had happened and shared none of its documents with him.

However, Dr. John R. Cavanagh, a Washington, D.C., psychiatrist who had also been appointed to the Commission, was less concerned about confidentiality. That summer, he discussed the meeting at length with Grisez and others, and having received the official English translation of the Report on the Fourth Session of the Commission Set Up by the Holy See to Study the Problems of Population, Family, and Birth-rate, he shared it with Grisez. After studying it, Grisez called Ford, and the two then freely discussed the Commission’s work.

It was clear that de Riedmatten, the Commission’s Secretary General, had skillfully managed the session.

Philosopher and lawyer John T. Noonan, Jr., was about to publish a book about the Church’s doctrine on contraception that was in effect a massive brief for the view that the teaching could change, and de Riedmatten had arranged for Noonan to summarize his case in a two-hour plenary meeting that opened the session’s discussions.

Then, instead of focusing on the question of the birth control pill or even on the truth of the Church’s constant and very firm teaching, de Riedmatten focused on the question of whether, as he put it, the teaching was “reformable” or “irreformable.” Twelve of the nineteen members of the theological section thought that the teaching was reformable—that it could be changed.

Although aware that Paul VI was willing to have the expanded Commission examine every aspect of the matter and make as good a case as possible for any view that might be true, Ford was surprised to find the theologians so predisposed to change. Significantly, the other members of the Commission—physicians, demographers and sociologists, married couples, and pastoral workers—sat in on almost all the discussions of the theological section. As Grisez was told by Dr. Cavanagh, he and other non-theologians began to think, for the first time in their lives, that using contraceptives might be accepted by the Church.

Having heard beforehand about Noonan’s work, Ford had hoped it would be helpful. Now he was severely disappointed. In discussing the book with Grisez, Ford raised many questions about its historical accuracy, and Grisez researched some of them. Impressed with the results, Ford tried but failed to get Grisez appointed to the Pontifical Commission. From then on, however, he regarded Grisez as a junior colleague, and in the fall of 1965 the two often talked as Ford prepared to see Pope Paul again.

By then Ford had resigned from his position at the Catholic University of America effective in 1966, and had already stopped working there. But he was still living in the Jesuit residence near the University, and Grisez often visited him there.

Early in November Ford requested an audience with the Pope and was soon called to Rome. The section on marriage in Vatican II’s almost-finished document, The Church in the Modern World, was unclear about contraception, and wanting the Council to reaffirm the teaching of Casti Connubii, Pope Paul put Bishop Carlo Colombo, his personal theological advisor, to work drafting amendments. On Monday, November 22, the Pope, having called Ford in for an hour-long private audience, enlisted him to work with Colombo and told him to return the next day with the draft amendments.

When Ford returned, Paul VI told him not to leave Rome as he had planned. Ford and some of the other theologians from the Commission were sent as theological advisors to the conciliar subcommission that would deal with the amendments. However, the subcommission did not welcome the Pope’s initiative. Wishing to avoid open conflict as the Council drew to a close, Paul VI allowed the subcommission to revise the amendments. The result was that the Council left “certain issues” about the morality of contraception to be resolved after the Commission on Population, Family, and Birth-rate completed its work.

That outcome greatly increased both the importance and the urgency of the Commission’s work. Ford and Grisez thought Paul VI should more clearly define the questions to be addressed and should direct the Commission to deliver to him, as soon as possible, the strongest cases that could be made both for and against the propositions on which its members disagreed. Ford tried to convey that idea to Paul VI and also urged de Riedmatten to organize the Commission’s work in that way, though Ford had little hope that the Secretary General would do so without a direct order from Paul VI.

Ford’s plan was not adopted, but the Pope did reorganize the Commission, so that all its previous members became expert advisors to sixteen cardinals and other bishops, newly named to constitute the Commission.

Once again, de Riedmatten organized everything. The experts were to meet in Rome, beginning with the theologians April 19—29, 1966, continuing with various groups including a second session of the theologians May 23–28, and wrapping up with a plenary session of the experts June 5–8. The members—the sixteen prelates—were then to consider the disputed matters June 20–25, and to deliver their findings and advice to the Pope.

Easily fatigued and never entirely well, Ford found the Commission meetings tedious and disheartening. Two of the seven members of the theological section who had held the previous year that the Church’s teaching on contraception could not change were no longer meeting with the experts and one other had switched sides. So Ford now found himself a member of a minority of four.

His three colleagues were good company, however. Marcelino Zalba, S.J., and Jan Visser, C.Ss.R., were leading Catholic moral theologians who had published updated versions of multivolume manuals of the moral theology that until then was typical of their religious institutes. Stanislas de Lestapis, S.J., was not only a sociologist who had published a book, Family Planning and Modern Problems,but a truly compassionate pastor, who foresaw that Catholics who were abandoning the Church’s teachings on marriage, sex, and innocent life would experience the disastrous consequences already experienced by many non-Catholics who had embraced a secularist ethics.

Almost all the laypeople now supported change. Patrick Crowley, a Chicago lawyer, and his wife, Patricia, who had founded the Catholic Family Movement, were given ample opportunity to present anecdotal data about birth regulation gathered by methodologically questionable surveys.

At one point, de Riedmatten himself invoked certain responses Paul VI had received to questions he put in 1964 to the bishops of the world; when Ford challenged the Secretary General to produce the documentation, de Riedmatten refused—and offered the excuse that it was confidential.

One of the Commission’s most able experts was Josef Fuchs, S.J., Professor of Moral Theology at the Gregorian University and a scholar whose earlier work Ford knew and respected. The previous spring Fuchs had declared that the Church had not taught on contraception in a way that precluded change. But although proponents of change had cast about for an argument that would win his support, he had not then been willing to say that the teaching was mistaken. Now, however, Fuchs had found a satisfying rationale for the moral acceptability of using contraceptives, and was prepared to say that the Church should change her teaching. The Commission’s other proponents of change, most of them not moral theologians, gladly embraced Fuchs’s new rationale.

Delighted with the emergence of what he called “substantial consensus”—fifteen members of the theological section denied that using contraceptives is in itself morally bad, while only four still held that position—de Riedmatten quickly recorded their votes (April 28). The Secretary General later put the tallies near the beginning of his Rapport Final (see pp. 8–10) and made them one of its central features.

For the experts of the theological section, the May sessions were an anticlimax. However, a proposal was made to facilitate the work of the Commission’s members—the prelates who would meet in June—by preparing papers summarizing the opposing cases on the question: Is using contraceptives always gravely wrong? Convinced that the case for the Church’s teaching is far stronger than the case its opponents had cobbled together, Ford and his colleagues enthusiastically accepted the proposal. The other side also agreed, and a date was set for delivering the two papers.

Ford drafted the principal parts of the paper for his group; to most of his draft, his three colleagues offered only minor amendments. However, although all four favored giving an account of the other side’s underlying theory, they lacked time to work out an account they could entirely agree upon. So, the others accepted Ford’s draft with an indication that not everyone agreed with everything in that section. Fr. de Lestapis also prepared a pastoral supplement, which his three colleagues gladly included.

On the agreed day, Ford delivered the completed paper, which was in Latin: Status Quaestionis: Doctrina Ecclesiae Eiusque Status. Those on the other side gave an excuse for lateness and delivered their paper, also in Latin, a few days later: Documentum Syntheticum de Moralitate Regulationis Nativitatum. When later telling Grisez what had happened, Ford wryly observed that the document’s drafters had made good use of the extra time.

During those spring sessions, Ford had sent Grisez occasional letters, briefly reporting developments and asking him to research a few things. Contrary to later reports, however, Grisez was not at all involved in the preparation ofStatus Quaestionis. He first learned of it and of Documentum Syntheticum when both documents arrived in his mail at Georgetown with Ford’s request for comments. Just finishing the spring semester at the time, Grisez set to work and soon sent many pages of comments: Grisez’s Critique of the Two Papers.

Ford received the first batch of comments just as the final session of the experts (June 5–8) was about to begin. Most of the experts would leave after that session, but some, including ten of the theologians—seven from the majority and Visser, Zalba, and Ford from the minority—would remain to sit in on the session of the members (June 20–25). With little time and much to do to prepare for that session, Ford telephoned Grisez and asked him to fly to Rome to lend a hand.

Grisez arrived in Rome on June 8, and was helped by Francis Furlong, S.J., Rector of the Collegio Bellarmino, to settle in a room near Ford’s. That evening, Ford took Grisez out to dinner and sightseeing. The next morning, the two began what would be a daily routine: Mass, a quick breakfast, and work.

Ford explained that the prospects for the coming session were not bright. Karol Wojtyła, Archbishop of Kraków, would have been an able defender of the Church’s teaching, but the word was that harassment by the Polish authorities would keep him from coming. No doubt he would in due course make his contribution directly to Pope Paul.

Five of the fifteen members who were coming—Cardinals Suenens, Döpfner, and Joseph Lefebvre (not to be confused with Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre); Archbishop Dearden; and Bishop Reuss—were known proponents of change on contraception. Cardinal Shehan and Bishop Dupuy of Albi probably shared their view. Cardinal Gracias from India, Archbishop Zoa from Cameroon, Archbishop Palido-Méndez from Venezuela, and Archbishop Morris from Ireland were unknown quantities.

In 1964 Cardinal Heenan had led the British bishops in countering the Dutch bishops’ support of the pill, but lately he seemed more hesitant. Only Cardinal Ottaviani, Archbishop Binz, and Bishop Colombo were certainly opposed to change, and Colombo still thought the pill was somehow different from the contraceptives that had always been condemned. Plainly, Ford observed, when Pope Paul reorganized the Commission, he hardly tried to load it against change; rather, he wanted to give the proponents of change every opportunity to make their case.

Ford wanted to meet, if possible, with Cardinal Heenan, Archbishop Morris, and other prelates when they arrived in Rome and before their session was to begin—in just eleven days. They would have already received Status Quaestionis,but he wanted something else to give them: a presentation of the case against change such as a skillful debater would make. He hoped it would not only firm up their thinking on the issue but make its way into de Riedmatten’s report, thus providing Pope Paul with a more rounded case than Ford had been able to present in Status Quaestionis.

Grisez proposed making the case by formulating a series of questions and treating each in just one page. Ford at once accepted the idea. The two formulated thirteen questions and outlined the answers, and Grisez set to work drafting. As he completed each page, Ford worked on it. Then they revised the entire draft, and Grisez typed what they expected to be the final version, which they titled: The Church and Contraception.

Ford and Grisez were able to meet with, and deliver the document to, Cardinals Heenan and Gracias and Archbishop Morris. Cardinal Heenan was noncommittal, and Archbishop Morris was anguished and considered himself unable to judge what Pope Paul should say about contraception. Cardinal Gracias, surprisingly, welcomed what Ford and Grisez had prepared, and at once began skimming it. In the event, Cardinal Gracias used a few of their pages during the members’ session, but de Riedmatten did not mention them in his report.

Ford had heard that some of the theologians promoting change were working on a schema—that is, a draft—of a possible papal document promulgating what they expected to be the Church’s new doctrine. While nothing had been said about such a schema during the sessions of experts, the plan seemed to be to put something before the fifteen prelates at their upcoming session. Ford did not know what he would do if that happened, but he thought he should have an alternative schema ready in case it was needed.

So, the two developed an outline, and Grisez produced a draft. After fifteen minutes of generous praise, Ford offered many “suggestions” to “improve” it. Accepting Ford’s devastating critique, Grisez scrapped most of the draft and wrote another. This one was close to what Ford had in mind, and the two worked together in correcting and polishing it. Pleased with the result, Ford translated it into Latin: Schema Quoddam Declarationis Pontificiae circa Anticonceptionem.During the whole of their stay in Rome, however, Ford never found an appropriate moment to make use of their alternative schema.

On Monday morning, June 20, Ford was among the theological experts sitting in as de Riedmatten began the session of the Commission’s members—the fifteen cardinals and bishops who were present—with a lengthy summary of the work of the Commission, from its foundation by John XXIII until the end of the recent experts’ sessions. This wasDe Riedmatten’s Relatio Generalis.

The Commission had been asked in June of 1964 to examine the precise problem of the pill; in their most recent session all the theologians but one or two had agreed that it presented no special problem. However, de Riedmatten focused in his presentation almost entirely on whether contraception is intrinsically evil. He framed his summary of the Commission’s work in quasi-factual observations suggesting that the widespread use of contraception made pastoral acceptance of it virtually inevitable. While inadequately summarizing the arguments set out by Ford and his colleagues in Status Quaestionis, he presented those inDocumentum Syntheticum at length and sympathetically.

Each of the prelates—except Cardinal Ottaviani and Archbishop Binz, who remained silent—presented his more or less prepared intervention. There was little discussion, and no minds were changed. Some of the prelates put questions to the experts, and a few of the non-theological experts were allowed to have their say in favor of change. Before noon Wednesday, there was nothing more to say, and the prelates could have gone home. But their formal vote was not scheduled until Friday.

It was proposed that a schema be prepared for a document to be issued by the Holy Father announcing the Church’s new doctrine. The members discussed the idea and accepted it. The theologians supporting change readily agreed to deliver a draft the next morning—that is, Thursday.

Obviously prepared in advance, the draft—Schema Documenti de Responsabili Paternitate (Schema of a Document on Resonsible Parenthood)—was discussed that day and part of the next, and some amendments were offered. Bishop Dupuy also produced a document he had brought with him entitled Pastoral Indications, which was well received by the other prelates who shared his position. With time running out on the members’ session, they left it to the theologians present who supported change and to de Riedmatten to complete the revision of the schema for delivery to Pope Paul along with the rest of the Commission’s documents.

On Friday, the prelates voted on three questions.
(1) “Whether it is the case that every contraceptive intervention—abortion and irreversible contraceptive sterilization excluded—is intrinsically illicit?”
• Nine voted no; three voted yes; and three abstained.
(2) “Do the members hold that the licitness of a contraceptive intervention— in the terms described by the majority of the Commission’s theological experts—can be affirmed in continuity with the Church’s tradition and the supreme Magisterium’s declarations about the goods of matrimony?”
• Nine voted yes; five voted no; and one abstained.
(3) “Should the supreme Magisterium speak quite soon?”
• Fourteen voted yes, and one abstained.

The nine votes firmly favoring change were those of Cardinals Suenens, Döpfner, Lefebvre, and Shehan; Archbishops Dearden, Zoa, and Palido-Méndez; and Bishops Reuss and Dupuy. The three votes that firmly rejected change were those of Cardinals Gracias and Ottaviani and Archbishop Binz.

Cardinal Heenan thought that a simple reaffirmation of the received teaching would not solve the existing problem, but he was not convinced that a new teaching along the lines supported by the majority of the theologians was possible. Archbishop Morris was the one persistent abstainer. In a written explanation, he said neither side’s arguments convinced him; he suggested that the issue be submitted to the bishops around the world. That proposal was supported by Cardinal Ottaviani, but opposed by others. Put to a vote, it was rejected eleven to four.

None of those prelates’ views surprised Ford, but the view of Paul VI’s personal theologian, Bishop Carlo Colombo, did. Colombo held that there were methods of contraception that the Church had always condemned, but he left open the possibility that the condemnation admitted exceptions in some cases. Although he thought the view of the majority theologians was at odds with the past teachings requiring respect for the “integrity of the conjugal act,” he also thought there might be contraceptive methods, presumably including the pill, compatible with it.

Bishop Colombo’s views surely contributed to Paul VI’s conviction that a thorough study of contraception was necessary. In rejecting Colombo’s peculiar view, as Paul VI ultimately did, the Pope—on the issue that had mainly concerned him—acted in accord with the nearly unanimous advice of the Commission’s experts and members.

Although Cardinal Ottaviani was the President of the Commission and realized that de Riedmatten’s final report to Pope Paul would be biased in favor of change, Ottaviani made no attempt to influence the Secretary General. Even before the members’ session ended, however, the Cardinal called Ford aside and asked him to stay in Rome for another week or two, to prepare a response to de Riedmatten’s report. Ford told Ottaviani about Grisez, and the Cardinal agreed that he should help.

On Saturday, June 25, the members left Rome. Six of the theologians who supported change and de Riedmatten put the finishing touches on their Schema Documenti de Responsabili Paternitate, which was to be the final part of the Secretary General’s Rapport Final, and he put the finishing touches on the Rapport as a whole.

After delivering the document to Paul VI on Monday afternoon, June 27, de Riedmatten was to deliver a copy of it to Cardinal Ottaviani. The Cardinal asked Ford and Grisez to meet with him immediately after that. So they spent the weekend beginning to plan the response they would put together for the Cardinal.

Meanwhile, Grisez had been thinking about the poor options the Holy Father now faced, and drafted a short paper on that matter to give Ottaviani on Monday. He finished it on Saturday, and an Italian friend had a translation ready on Monday: Quali Sono le Alternative che Rimangono Aperte per il S. Padre?

Ushered to a corridor on the top floor of Palazzo del S. Uffizio late Monday afternoon, Ford and Grisez watched de Riedmatten cross the courtyard below as he arrived and, a short time later, departed. Less than a half hour after that, the door at the end of the corridor opened, and Cardinal Ottaviani, who was alone, warmly welcomed them into his private apartment, sat down with them at a low table, exchanged pleasantries, gave them a copy of the Rapport Final, and began a remarkably frank and collegial discussion of the job he wanted them to do. He was unhurried, and waited patiently as Ford translated for Grisez.

Regarding the response Ford and Grisez were to prepare, Ottaviani specified only two things. First, he wanted it in a week or ten days, if possible, for he wished to deliver it to Pope Paul soon. Second, he wanted it to answer a question he was sure the Holy Father would ask: How could all these good men have come to this conclusion? The Cardinal thought it would be very difficult for the Pope to disagree with the proponents of change unless he had a satisfying answer to that question. Ottavani did not suggest an answer; perhaps the question puzzled him too.

Ford described the thirteen questions and answers he and Grisez had written, and proposed to include them in the response. He also proposed to make a few important points about the Rapport Final rather than undertake a systematic critique. Ottaviani readily agreed to both proposals, and discussed the second with Ford in some detail. When their conversation drew to an end, Grisez presented the memorandum about options he had drawn up, and the Cardinal, apparently sincerely interested, graciously thanked him.

Skimming de Riedmatten’s final report, Ford and Grisez were appalled but not surprised by how biased it was. Toward the end, the Secretary General even rationalized its one-sidedness on the ground that those favoring change had, after all, prevailed. The two men spent many hours discussing how to answer the question Ottaviani had raised. The section ofStatus Quaestionis with which Ford’s colleagues had not completely agreed touched on the question. Grisez proposed additional ideas; Ford questioned and developed them. Grisez took notes, and they soon had an outline.

During the next week, Grisez spent almost all his time drafting and redrafting that single document, while Ford spent almost all his time drafting general and specific observations on the Rapport Final and on the Schema Documenti—which, by putting it at the Rapport’s very end, de Riedmatten made out to be the consummation of the Commission’s entire work.

On Monday, July 4, Grisez completed his assignment, and Ford completed his general observations. Ford sent Ottaviani those two parts along with a third consisting of the thirteen questions and answers, while promising delivery of a fourth part, consisting of specific observations, two days later. Ford wrote a covering letter but did not give the packet of materials a single title. It may be called Materials Prepared by Ford and Grisez at the Request of Cardinal Ottaviani.

On Wednesday, Ford completed his work on part four, and the Italian friend who had translated for him and Grisez treated them to a fine farewell dinner. Thursday, July 7, Ford and Grisez flew together to New York, and there parted. Grisez headed home for a needed week’s vacation with his family, and Ford went for health care and prepared to return to Rome to participate, from September 8 to November 17, in the second session of the thirty-first General Congregation of the Society of Jesus.

Ford never said much about that Congregation’s affairs—just enough so that Grisez realized that there, too, Ford was in a minority on many matters and that he found that work as burdensome as his work on the Commission.

During the whole stretch he worked with Ford, however, Grisez never saw him depressed or gravely anxious about how things would turn out. The key to Ford’s inner peace and unwavering hope was his childlike faith in providence. He used to say: “No matter how bad things seem, when I go to bed at the end of the day, I know I am in God’s arms and am sure everything will be all right.”

That fall, while Ford was still in Rome, there was publicity in the U.S. about a public conference to be held in Washington, D.C., involving the former Commission experts, other than Ford, from the U.S. De Riedmatten was scheduled to give the keynote address. The word was that the organizers planned to publicize the outcome of the Commission’s work so as to prepare people for a coming papal statement along the lines of the Schema Documenti.

Apparently hearing of the plan, the Pope took action. Addressing the Italian Society of Obstetrics and Gynecology on October 29, 1966, just 124 days after de Riedmattten had delivered his Rapport Final, Paul VI said that the Commission’s conclusions, “it seems to me, cannot be considered definitive, because they have serious implications with respect to not a few weighty questions—questions of a doctrinal, pastoral and social order—which cannot be isolated and put to the side, but require a logical consideration in the context of the issues under study.”

Reading the address in L’Osservatore Romano, Ford airmailed that page of the paper to Grisez with a jubilant note. The day he received it, Grisez showed it to a priest-theologian who, though pro-contraception, respected Grisez’s book on the subject and remained his friend. He had come to Washington to hear de Riedmatten and the others. On reading the passage, his face went white. In the event, De Riedmatten’s presentation at the public conference was so reserved it received hardly any coverage.

About six months later, in the spring of 1967, translations of four Commission documents were leaked and published in English and French, obviously to put pressure on Pope Paul. The Schema Documenti de Responsabili Paternitate, which de Riedmatten had included at the end of his Rapport Final, was labeled The Majority Report and misleadingly presented as the counterpart of Status Quaestionis: Doctrina Ecclesiae Eiusque Status, which was labeled The Minority Report. The latter document’s true counterpart, Documentum Syntheticum de Moralitate Regulationis Nativitatum was labeled The Majority Rebuttal.

Finally returning in January 1967 to Weston College, the place he regarded as home, Ford found that many confrères who had been friendly were so no longer, and at best treated him with cool politeness. Boston College and other Jesuit schools in the U.S were about to hire non-Catholics to teach undergraduate theology courses, and the opposition to doing so—in which Ford wholeheartedly joined—was a losing cause. Plans were being made to move the entire Weston theology program to Cambridge, Massachusetts, to be near Harvard University. Ford expected nothing good from that move, but opposing it was another unpopular and losing cause.

Amidst the abject surrender of academic authorities to the student rebellion of the late 1960s, many of the young Jesuits whom Ford strove to teach in 1967–68 treated him without respect, and some with manifest contempt. Empathetic and friendly, Ford suffered terribly from the unfriendly, even hostile, attitude of those men. Given a sabbatical for the following year, Ford offered to retire from teaching as of Janaury 6, 1969, and his resignation was readily accepted. His plan was to continue serving as well as he could, especially by carrying on the unobtrusive pastoral work he loved so much.

Meanwhile, Paul VI finally concluded his conscientious study of birth regulation. He issued Humanae vitae on July 25, 1968, but released it for publication only on Monday, July 29. The central teaching seemed to Ford entirely sound, precisely formulated, and complete. The explanation of it, however, seemed unclear and incomplete. (John Paul II would set out one theological explanation at great length in what is called his “theology of the body.”)

In preparation ever since Paul VI’s statement of October 29, 1966, a tide of straightforward dissent by many Catholic academics and more or less guarded dissent by a substantial minority of bishops, including some conferences of bishops, began. It crested only after about three months. Ford was dismayed but not surprised.

One of the few bishops who strongly and steadfastly opposed dissent in his diocese was Cardinal Patrick A. O’Boyle, Archbishop of Washington, D.C. Some theologians and other clerics teaching at The Catholic University of America, who provided little or no pastoral service in the diocese, issued a statement on Tuesday morning, July 30, initiating so-called theological dissent throughout the U.S. Their proximity to and relationships with certain disaffected priests serving the diocese encouraged some of the Washington priests to subscribe to a statement of pastoral dissent, which was issued Tuesday evening, July 30. (The number of signers varied, as priests added or removed their names; it peaked at fifty-four and ended with thirty-nine.)

Archbishop O’Boyle (as he preferred to be addressed) at once called on Ford for help. Ford, along with the staff members closest to the Cardinal, quickly helped him work out the policy he adopted and held to. Dissent from the teaching of the encyclical by those engaged in pastoral ministry in the diocese would not be tolerated; yet those dissenting would not, strictly speaking, be punished for doing so. Rather, their faculties—that is, the Archbishop’s official authorizations, required by Church law—to hear confessions, to preach, and/or to teach would be withdrawn unless the priests agreed not to apply their dissenting opinion when using those faculties. The rationale for this policy was that the Archbishop could not in good conscience authorize priests assisting him to do what he believed it would be wrong to do himself—wrong because potentially disastrous to souls entrusted to his care.

O’Boyle also wanted Ford to draft a pastoral letter and in other ways help deal with the dissent. On August 1, Ford called Grisez, who the evening of July 30 had been one of the few to speak out against dissent at the mass meeting at Catholic University in which the leaders of academic dissent publicized their view. Late in the afternoon of August 2, Ford and Grisez delivered their draft to the Archbishop and his inner circle. With a few amendments, he was satisfied with it, and said it would be read at all the Masses in the diocese on Sunday, August 11.

Grisez at once argued strongly and bluntly that a week’s delay was pastorally unacceptable. Startled, O’Boyle said nothing for nearly a minute. Then he asked key staff members if they could get the pastoral out that same weekend. They quickly devised a plan for doing that and began to implement it.

That evening, O’Boyle and his closest associate dined with Ford and Grisez, and the four men discussed three possible projects— a substantial pastoral booklet, clearly and briefly answering the questions the faithful were actually asking; a letter for the Archbishop to send his dissenting priests, examining the position they had taken, explaining his own, and asking them to retract; and a critique of claims made by the academic dissenters together with proposals for dealing with them. The Cardinal asked Ford and Grisez to begin work at once on the pastoral booklet; within a week they were working on the other two projects as well.

O’Boyle had provided a two-bedroom suite in an apartment hotel near his own office for Ford. He and Grisez worked there during most of August; Grisez often staying overnight. This time, they were full partners. The two also enjoyed each other’s company, and became closer friends.

The forty-eight page pastoral booklet, Sex in Marriage: Love-Giving, Life-Giving, was distributed to every family in the diocese on September 8, and subsequently reprinted by many other bishops and Catholic organizations. Eventually, more than one million copies became available in the English-speaking world. The letter to the dissenting priests became ten pages; O’Boyle completed work on it on August 10, and it was mailed out August 14. It was a factor in reducing the size of the group subscribing to the dissenting pastoral statement. The critique of claims by the academic dissenters was soon supplied to the Archbishop, but that group was dealt with by all the bishops on the board of Catholic University, and the majority, on the advice of the University’s lawyers, chose to tolerate the faculty members’ dissent.

Around the end of August, Ford returned to Weston. Although he occasionally provided helpful advice during the following months, Grisez alone continued to work full time for O’Boyle during the academic year 1968–69. (The Cardinal obtained a leave of absence for Grisez from Georgetown shortly before classes were to begin.)

At Weston, Ford found himself unable to concentrate on paperwork. He immersed himself in pastoral service, and ignored the troubling things happening in the Church and the Society of Jesus. From time to time during the following years, Grisez, usually accompanied by his wife, Jeannette, visited Ford, who always arranged a guest room for them and often took them out for sightseeing and a great meal.

For many years, Ford said Mass at a home for the elderly where he befriended the residents and served as their pastor. He also regularly visited disabled people in other institutions. Some were bitter about their sufferings, and Ford strove to promote their faith and hope—to get them to forgive God. He also spent many hours on an alcohol hot line, listening patiently to fellow alcoholics. The Grisezs always found him vivacious and happy with his work.

In 1976, in connection with a catechism project, Grisez for the first time carefully studied some of the documents of Vatican II. He realized that a passage in the Council’s document on the Church (Lumen gentium, 25) provided the basis for a powerful argument that the Church had infallibly proposed her teaching on contraception long beforeHumanae vitae. Ford had thought and argued that in 1966, but without reference to the conciliar teaching.

Grisez proposed to Ford that they publish an article together making the case. At first, Ford flatly refused. But Grisez went to work on a draft, eventually got Ford to read and criticize it, and finally persuaded him to study it sentence by sentence. The two worked together until Ford was satisfied with every sentence of the final draft, which they sent to Theological Studies, with Ford’s name first. The journal reluctantly accepted the article— “Contraception and the Infallibility of the Ordinary Magisterium” —and published it on the tenth anniversary of Humanae vitae.

During their work together over the years, Ford taught Grisez a great deal of what he knew of the classical moral theology and its methodology. In that way, Ford was Grisez’s theological mentor. That theological formation greatly helped Grisez when he undertook to write The Way of the Lord Jesus.

For the next ten years, Ford continued his pastoral work. His mind remained clear and sharp, but he gradually became less and less able to get about. He joked that they no longer made spare parts for a 1902 Ford.

On September 24, 1988, the Fellowship of Catholic Scholars gave Ford its Cardinal O’Boyle Award for Defense of the Faith. The meeting was in Boston. Friends brought Ford from the Jesuit residence at Weston to receive the award in person. Grisez read the citation (in the opposite column on this page, after the publications list). Ford, plainly delighted, responded appropriately.

There was little opportunity that evening for the Grisezs to chat with Father Ford, and they never saw him again. He died less than four months later, on January 14, 1989. He was eighty-seven years old and had celebrated the sixty-eighth anniversary of entering the Jesuits the previous August.

Some of the factual statements in the preceding biography were drawn from or verified by: William P. Fischer, John C. Ford, S.J.: A Mid-Century Reformer Revisited, 1937–1969 (Ph.D. dissertation, The Catholic University of America, 2004)

A World Apart — Learn about Angels

Catechesis on the Holy Angels by Pope John Paul II, given at 6 General Audiences from 9 July to 20 August 1986.

Click here for a catechesis on the reality of Angels by Pope John Paul II…

New website dedicated to the beatification and canonization of Pope John Paul II


ROME (CNS) — The Diocese of Rome launched a new website dedicated to the beatification and canonization of Pope John Paul II.

Published in seven languages, the site, Karol-Wojtyla.orgoffers news updates and background information on the late Pope and his sainthood cause, as well as a live webcam of his tomb in the grotto of St. Peter’s Basilica.

The website also announced that the beatification ceremony in St. Peter’s Square May 1, Divine Mercy Sunday, will be open to the public, and no tickets will be required to attend.

The evening before the ceremony, April 30, there will be a prayer vigil at Rome’s ancient Circus Maximus racetrack, it said.

The website offers the diocesan-approved prayer asking for graces through the intercession of Pope John Paul in 31 languages, including Chinese, Arabic, Russian and Swahili.

A miracle after Pope John Paul’s beatification would be needed for his canonization, which is a Church declaration that the person is a saint and worthy of universal veneration.

On Jan. 14, Pope Benedict XVI approved a first miracle attributed to the late Pope’s intercession, clearing the way for his beatification.

The approval came after more than five years of investigation into the life and writings of the Polish pontiff, who died in April 2005 after more than 26 years as pope.


Why your family is the way it is…

“The future of humanity passes by way of the family…”

A Family Manifesto: How to Read Familiaris Consortio

Joseph C. Atkinson

Pope John Paul II was a brave man. Speaking the truth in unstable and unfriendly countries, standing boldly against the popular demise of morality, traveling furiously even when weakened by sickness — no one could deny his courage.

But the pope did more than just model strength for us: He called us to it. His apostolic exhortation, Familiaris Consortio (On the Role of the Christian Family in the Modern World [1981]), was such a call. This papal document sets out the seemingly impossible mission facing every married couple and every family in the world today: It alerts us to the fact that “the family is the object of numerous forces that seek to destroy it or in some way to deform it” and then reveals strategies for overcoming them. It shows a dying society the root of its problems and offers a renewed vision of human life, marriage, and family that will bring healing to a wounded humanity.

Given its urgent call to action, its sense of impending danger, and the fact that the pope himself called it a summa of the Church’s teaching on the family, it’s strange that this document has remained largely neglected since its publication 30 years ago. Why this reaction?

The answer lies in the fact that the teaching of Familiaris Consortio is incompatible with the secular belief system that has deeply affected our culture. The pope showed that there are two incompatible visions of reality. In presenting a biblical vision of man, he challenged the presuppositions of all secular rationalists (whether in society or in the Church) about the nature of man and woman, marriage and the family. In proclaiming “the plan of God for marriage and the family,” the pope called us all to a fundamental conversion, to the “acceptance of the Gospel.” Implied in this call is a conversion from the secular to the biblical view of reality. In this way, Familiaris Consortio stands out in the modern intellectual landscape as a sign of contradiction. While such signs are rarely welcomed, they are, nonetheless, a source of hope.

The Real Danger

Familiaris Consortio gives us a plan of action. First, it identifies the real and present danger: “At the present time, [there are] ideas and solutions which are very appealing, but which obscure in varying degrees the truth and the dignity of the human person…. These views are often supported by the powerful and pervasive organization of the means of social communication, which subtly endanger freedom and the capacity for objective judgment. Many are already aware of this danger to the human person.”

To respond to these ideologies, the pope constructed what is known as a “theological anthropology” — a view of the human person that respects his dignity by respecting his specific created nature. In the early Church, the very nature of salvation was threatened by the Christological heresies: A misunderstanding of Christ’s nature led inevitably to a misunderstanding of the nature of salvation. The Church fought vigorously against those early enemies of the truth. Today, the heresies that have arisen are not Christological but anthropological. Now, the very nature of man and our fundamental relationships with one another, as well as with God, are severely threatened. The pope’s construction of a theological anthropology was his answer to the modern heresies. Secular ideologies have systematically imposed their vision of reality on society. That vision has included a faulty egalitarianism, a reduction of all sexual differentiation to mere biology, and an understanding of the body and sexual relationships as merely instrumental. In this view, life is devoid of any metaphysical dimension (see the pope’s Letter to Families [1994]).

In contrast to these destructive “heresies,” Familiaris Consortio‘s vision of human nature is based on the revelational witness of Scripture and grounded in the theology of creation. Like the Lord Himself, it takes us “back to the beginning” (cf. Matthew 19:1-6). This alone can overcome the false views dominating our society; the enemy must be revealed and a response formulated.

The Enemy Exposed

At the heart of the flawed secular view of reality lies a false notion of freedom. This faulty view leads inexorably to a disintegrative and destructive understanding of the person. Speaking about abortion, divorce, contraception, and other depersonalizing practices, John Paul II astutely revealed their root cause: “At the root of these negative phenomena there frequently lies a corruption of the idea and the experience of freedom, conceived not as a capacity for realizing the truth of God’s plan for marriage and the family, but as an autonomous power of self-affirmation, often against others, for one’s own selfish well-being.”

This distinction is difficult for the secular mind to grasp. As with every age, ours has been seduced by the First Temptation, the temptation to reject creaturely obedience to God and replace it with the lordship of “self.” While this grab for power may initially feel liberating, it ends in the isolation of self-captivity. Familiaris Consortio exposes the truth about the autonomous, self-referential individual. In rejecting his dependent relationship with God, man becomes depersonalized and destructive. Only by a fundamental reorientation toward the Creator and the acceptance of the structure, meaning, and purpose of human nature as it is divinely revealed can man discover his true self. For this reason, Familiaris Consortio begins with a fundamental call to conversion and states that “the Church is deeply convinced that only by the acceptance of the gospel are the hopes that man legitimately places in marriage and in the family capable of being fulfilled.” But a sophisticated modern society finds the simplicity and humility required for such a conversion difficult to accept.

Image and Likeness

Every good battle plan has a strategy. Familiaris Consortio is no different, but unlike the elaborate designs drawn by generals past, its power lies in its fundamental simplicity. The apostolic exhortation shows that the answer to the modern crisis lies in recovering the theology of creation as a vital part of any anthropological discourse. The fundamental reorientation toward the Creator requires our acceptance of creaturely status. Only in this way can the vertical dimension to human existence be rediscovered.

Of course, in a society that worships “self,” it’s extremely difficult to recall people to this saner view of reality — the view that we’re not the creators of our own nature. Nevertheless, Familiaris Consortio unabashedly proclaims that only in his relationship to God can man (and hence marriage and family) ever come into fullness of being: “Willed by God in the very act of creation, marriage and the family are interiorly ordained to fulfillment in Christ, and have need of His graces in order to be healed from the wounds of sin and restored to their ‘beginning,’ that is, to full understanding and the full realization of God’s plan.”

Human nature, marriage, and family are not social constructs subject to manipulation for the advancement of specific agendas. Rather, they’re formed and informed by God’s loving plan and interiorly oriented toward Christ. We’re called to be faithful to this will — not to any political expediency.

In calling us to battle, the pope isn’t leaving us unarmed. Familiaris Consortio provides tools that effectively defeat the destructive hold that secularism has on the modern mind. The document’s implicit critique of rationalism is fully developed in Letter to Families. There the pope shows that at the heart of modern rationalism lies its rejection of the metaphysical dimension. “Modern rationalism does not tolerate mystery…. Rationalism provides a radically different way of looking at creation and the meaning of human existence…. What is left except the mere temporal dimension of life?”

In the destructive framework of secularist thought, human nature and human acts have only temporary, utilitarian value. Meaning, if attached to any particular phenomenon, is only subjective. Inevitably, in the area of sexuality, the “other” is quickly reduced to a mere object, and the dignity of the human person is lost. The deeper dimensions of the human person, the marital covenant, and the family are incomprehensible to those who think this way. The modern world, having lost the capacity to reject the self-centered secularist framework, has also lost the language of love. Familiaris Consortio counters this by insisting on our essential identity as creatures made in the image of God:

God created man in His own image and likeness…. God is love and in Himself He lives a mystery of personal loving communion. Creating the human race in His own image and continually keeping it in being, God inscribed in the humanity of man and woman the vocation, and thus the capacity and responsibility, of love and communion. Love is therefore the fundamental and innate vocation of every human being.

Man is free only insofar as he is faithful to his created nature. Ultimately, he can only know love to the extent that he realizes his relationship to God. The pope showed that at the heart of human nature itself is the vocation to personal love and communion, which is a reflection of, and participates in, the life of the Trinity. This is possible precisely and only because man is made in God’s image. Because of this, human relationships possess a meaning far beyond mere biology. Indeed, “the love of husband and wife is a unique participation in the mystery of life and of the love of God himself.”

Interpreting Reality

Part of our mission in today’s world is to recover the sense that there’s a profound symbolic dimension to the human person. The prevailing ethos is all against this. As Henri de Lubac noted in Sources of Revelation(1968), “If we said that our age repudiated… every kind of symbolism, we would still be stopping at appearances. What it does, rather, is to institute an anti-symbolism.” In contrast, Familiaris Consortioarticulates a profound hermeneutic of reality — one that allows for the intersecting of the physical and the spiritual. This hermeneutic is essential if the nature of human relationships is to be correctly understood. In reflecting on the meaning of the spousal covenant, Familiaris Consortio states: “Their belonging to each other is the real representation, by means of the sacramental sign, of the very relationship of Christ with the Church… the permanent reminder to the Church of what happened on the Cross.”

This transcendent dimension to human life has been virtually eradicated by the dominance of scientific rationalism, according to which whatever is not replicable in a laboratory is not real. But human nature, relationships, and actions can never properly be understood as only biological phenomena. They carry meaning far beyond their physical or temporal dimensions. All human reality (and its valuation) is tied to what the pope called the inscribed “vocation to love,” which is, in turn, linked to the divine nature and reflective of it. All of this depends on man’s status as imago dei (the image of God), which John Paul II considered “the most profound truth of man.”

This is incomprehensible to the secular mind. True to its own flawed logic, this view has provided for the development and acceptance of an increasingly depersonalized vision of human sexuality, one that includes contraception, in vitro fertilization, abortion, same-sex unions, embryonic stem cell research, and the like.


To counter this perversion of the human person, Familiaris Consortio confronts the dualistic tendency of our age by “going back to the beginning” and grounding our thinking in the original creative act. The anthropology the pope developed protects the essential dignity of the body and the human person: “In this way sexuality is respected and promoted in its truly and fully human dimension and is never ‘used’ as an ‘object’ that, by breaking the personal unity of soul and body, strikes at God’s creation itself at the level of the deepest interaction of nature and person.”

At issue is the value of the human body and its actions. Precisely because they have transcendent meaning, neither our gender nor our sexual relationships are without consequence. “Sexuality… is by no means something purely biological, but concerns the innermost being of the human person as such.”

This is diametrically opposed to secularism’s valuation of the human person and his actions. Love worthy of its name must involve the totality of the person. As Familiaris Consortio states, “Conjugal love involves a totality…. It aims at a deeply personal unity, the unity that, beyond union of one flesh, leads to forming one heart and soul; it demands indissolubility and faithfulness in definitive mutual giving; and it is open to fertility.”

The nature of love, the nature of the human person, and the nature of marriage require the total engagement of our human nature and an openness to life. By reiterating these truths, Familiaris Consortio not only explicitly endorses Humanae Vitae, but also provides a cogent theological and psychological defense of it. John Paul II reminded us that the teachings of Humanae Vitae provide the way to engage our sexuality in a fully human manner. “When couples, by means of recourse to contraception, separate these two meanings that God the Creator has inscribed in the being of man and woman… they act as ‘arbiters’ of the divine plan and they ‘manipulate’ and degrade human sexuality — and with it themselves and their married partner — by altering its value of ‘total’ self-giving.”

Sadly, it’s precisely this cogent defense of the teaching of Humanae Vitae that makes Familiaris Consortiosuch a hard sell in a secular environment.

Male and Female

A second hard sell was the pope’s rejection of modern reductionist ideas about gender. Society wants to force a sexless humanity (and the ubiquitous generic “person”) upon us. In contrast, Familiaris Consortiodevelops the idea of incarnational reality — that is, the belief that the physical can be expressive of a spiritual reality and that these two realities are intrinsically bound to each other. In particular, the body can never be separated from the person. The body itself is expressive of the person and bodily acts affect the person at the most profound level of his being. Secularism’s rejection of this connection has left many wounded in their bodies and in their souls. “As an incarnate spirit, that is a soul which expresses itself in a body and a body informed by an immortal spirit, man is called to love in his unified totality. Love includes the human body, and the body is made a sharer in spiritual love.”

Fundamental to created human nature is gender; maleness and femaleness are not arbitrary but essential to identity. Any reductionism on this point perverts our conception of the person. As Eric Mascal wrote inMan, Woman, and Priesthood (1978): “We have come to look upon sex in far too superficial a way, as if there were a kind of undifferentiated human nature…. Humanity is, so to speak, essentially binary; it exists only in the two modes of masculinity and femininity, and we can only understand it by studying them.”

This led the pope to encourage the genuine advancement of both men and women, but never in a reductionist manner. A proper anthropology allows for, values, and protects the similarity and distinctiveness of each gender. He wrote, “In creating the human race ‘male and female,’ God gives man and woman an equal personal dignity, endowing them with the inalienable rights and responsibilities proper to the human person.” But this never collapses into a homogenous interchangeability. Only by respecting the uniqueness and irreducibility of maleness and femaleness can we secure the positive and rich dynamic that is at the heart of gender. “All of this does not mean for women a renunciation of their femininity or an imitation of the male role, but the fullness of true feminine humanity which should be expressed in their activity.”

This is the great disease of the modern world: the rejection of the truly feminine. An adequate anthropology would prevent this. Similarly, the nature of maleness is unique, and the pope hinted at what this means: “In revealing and in reliving on earth the very fatherhood of God, a man is called upon to ensure the harmonious and united development of all the members of the family.” To lose the language of differentiation is to lose the language of love. Familiaris Consortio reveals that sexuality and acts proper to it are never only biological but are revelatory of both the human person and God’s relationship with man: “Sexuality… concerns the innermost being of the human person as such…. Their bond of love becomes the image and the symbol of the covenant which unites God and his people.” To nullify the value of the human body and its gendered specificity is not only to reject reality but also to diminish the way in which God’s salvific will is communicated to us. Screwtape himself could not have found a better means of attack.

Family: The Ecclesial Community

The attack isn’t only on the individual but on the context that brings the individual into integrated wholeness; it’s an attack on the family, which is the most basic and essential of human communities. The family must figure prominently in any authentic anthropology because man is never an isolated individual. As the pope stated: “The future of humanity passes by way of the family.” The attack against the family logically proceeds from modernity’s embrace of radical individualism, which pits the individual against any communitarian dimension of the person. Familiaris Consortio overcomes these destructive forces by discovering the original purpose and structure of the family. It urges “the rediscovery of the ecclesial mission proper to the family.”

Just as the incarnate soul can discover its purpose and meaning only in its relationship to God, so the communitarian aspect of man, embodied in the family, is only intelligible by its relationship to God’s will. “The family finds in the plan of God the Creator and Redeemer not only its identity, what it is, but also its mission…. Family become what you are. Accordingly, the family must go back to the ‘beginning’ of God’s creative act, if it is to attain self-knowledge and self-realization in accordance with the inner truth not only of what it is but also of what it does in history.”

The modern attacks against the family will succeed if the transcendent nature of the family is not fully grasped. If the spiritual dimension of reality is rejected, and if, like the body, the family is merely instrumentalized, then it can and will be distorted and destroyed. But for Familiaris Consortio, this is a falsification of the nature of family. According to the pope, the true interior structure of the family is found in its relationship to the body of Christ, the Church. “The Christian family constitutes a specific revelation and realization of the ecclesial communion, and for this reason too it can and should be called ‘the domestic Church.’ …But it is through the Cross that the family can attain the fullness of its being and the perfection of its love.”

The family cannot be understood as a social phenomenon subject to manipulation; to understand it thus is to distort its nature. The true purpose of the family lies in its relationship to the Cross and the salvation that was bought there. Indeed, “the Christian family is grafted into the mystery of the Church to such a degree as to become a sharer, in its own way, in the saving mission proper to the Church.” Attacks against the person, whether in terms of the body, gender, or his corporate reality (in the family), are ultimately attacks on the divine plan.

We’ve been given a mission. Sadly, the secular mind (whether in society or in the Christian community) disregards it because it doesn’t fit with the values of the age. The late pope’s insistence on the authentic value of the body, gender, and family as constituted by God is unacceptable to this mindset. That’s why the first call in this apostolic exhortation is to conversion. Familiaris Consortio confronts us with one of the key spiritual struggles of modern times and asks what vision of reality will win out.

So, the question remains: Will we become what we truly are — families created to reflect and participate in the very love of God Himself? And will we love one another totally with a covenantal love, faithful until death, respectful of our fecundity, icons of Christ’s own self-sacrificial love?

A difficult mission indeed, but for the grace of God.

This article originally appeared in the December 2001 issue of Crisis Magazine.

EDITORS NOTE: I would like to thank insidecatholic for reprinting this (unfortunately) still timely article… I had not read it before. May souls and their families benefit greatly from it being found here on The Orate Fratres as well.

“It was all war, all the time.” — Catholicism vs. Communism

John Paul II will be beatified by Pope Benedict on May 1st, (May Day) 2011.

EDITOR: This post is dedicated to my friend in arms, Charles, who I know joins with me in opposing those forces which would seek to threaten all that is true, good, and beautiful concerning Our Lord Jesus Christ, His Church, our faith, and the freedom He offers each man.

That Pope John Paul II was a pivotal figure in the fall of European Communism is accepted as a truism, but many details of that drama have remained hidden in archives.

A US biographer of the late pope has now provided particulars of what he describes as the full-scale war by Communism against the Catholic Church, and Pope John Paul’s astute and successful counter-strategy.

The Polish pope displayed political savvy and “a shrewdness that combined steadiness of strategic vision with tactical flexibility”, George Weigel told an audience of seminarians, diplomats and Vatican officials at the Pontifical North American College on Sunday.

One of Pope John Paul’s moves, Mr Weigel said, was to appoint as his own Secretary of State Cardinal Agostino Casaroli, the architect of the Vatican’s “Ostpolitik” efforts to reach workable compromises with communist regimes.

By doing so, he “created tactical advantages for the Church: as the pope preached moral revolution over the heads of Communist regimes, speaking directly to their people, [Cardinal] Casaroli continued his diplomacy, thus denying the Communists the opportunity to charge that the Church had reneged on its commitment to dialogue,” Mr Weigel said.

Mr Weigel said he based his conclusions on previously secret cables and memos that have emerged from behind the former Iron Curtain. He came across the information while researching his latest book on the life of Pope John Paul, The End and the Beginning, which looks at the pope’s final years and evaluates his legacy.

As a point of orientation, he quoted Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz, Pope John Paul’s longtime secretary, who once remarked about the Church’s battle with Poland’s Communist regime: “You must understand that it was always ‘them’ and ‘us’.” What he meant, Mr Weigel said, was that “the struggle between Communism and Catholicism could not be understood as a matter of episodic confrontations… It was all war, all the time.”

Certainly that was how Communist leaders from Moscow to Budapest saw it, Mr Weigel said. He catalogued efforts by Communist regimes to place spies in local Catholic hierarchies and the Vatican, to exploit the Church’s moves toward openness and dialogue, to create ecumenical confusion and to compromise Church leaders by planting false stories.

In 1983, Mr Weigel recounted, the Polish security police even decided to blackmail Pope John Paul. The instrument chosen was a fake diary said to have been written by a deceased female employee of the Archdiocese of Krakow, in which the diarist reported she had been the future pope’s lover. The plot fell apart when one of the conspirators, after successfully planting the diary in the home of a Krakow priest, got drunk, crashed his car and blabbed to police about what he’d just done.

Although the story has a Keystone Kops flavour, Mr Weigel noted that the same security police operative would surface a year and a half later – as one of the men who beat Solidarity activist Fr Jerzy Popieluszko to death and dumped his body in the Vistula River.

Mr Weigel said Soviet bloc intelligence services tried to manipulate the debates of the Second Vatican Council for political ends, a process that continued as the “Ostpolitik” policy of the Vatican developed and prevailed. He said the Hungarian regime used the Vatican’s diplomatic opening to take control of the Catholic Church in the country; most bishops nominated after 1964 were co-operators with internal security and foreign intelligence services, he said.

At the Pontifical Hungarian Institute in Rome, all the rectors and half the students in the late 1960s were trained agents of Hungarian secret intelligence, he said.

Mr Weigel said Communist moles were placed successfully at Vatican Radio, at the Vatican newspaper and in pontifical universities. When Pope John Paul II was elected, he took some counter-intelligence steps; for one thing, materials dealing with Poland were no longer archived in the Secretariat of State but were kept in the papal apartment “where there was no chance for mischief-makers to prowl around”, Mr Weigel said.

When Pope John Paul met leaders such as Soviet Foreign Minister Andrei Gromyko, the pope decided not to keep a written record of their conversations, so that the notes would not fall into the wrong hands. Instead, Mr Weigel said, the pope and then-Mgr Dziwisz would discuss the encounters, and the secretary kept notes in diaries that remained under his control.

Mr Weigel said he thinks some lessons can be drawn by the Church’s experience with European Communism, as it looks to present challenges in the world’s remaining Communist states and in Islamic states. For one thing, he said, Vatican efforts to reach beneficial compromises with communist powers “rarely, if ever, paid significant dividends”.

He said a much more valuable witness was provided by church leaders who spoke courageously against the regimes, sometimes paying with their lives.

“Deeply committed and politically shrewd Christian pastors and laity eventually won out over communism. The blood of martyrs, however, was the seed of victory. Their sacrifice, and what we can learn from it about the cardinal virtue of fortitude – courage – must never be forgotten,” he said.