HV ex-priest protester from 1968 comes around

When I was in seminary in the USA, there was on the faculty a fellow who had been a signer of the infamous NY Times ad protesting Humanae vitae.  Raising the question "Is the same [INSERT RATHER RARE NAME HERE] as on our faculty?", which didn’t exactly win laurels from the same wacko faculty of heretics and man-haters.

But dum spiro spero.

I read a good story at CNA today:

Former encyclical protestor signs ‘Humanae Vitae Pledge’

Front Royal, Va, Aug 3, 2008 / 01:37 pm (CNA).- In this weekly email newsletter, President of Human Life International, Father Thomas J. Euteneuer, [Who is willing to stand up in public and say the hard word of truth.] shared a letter he received that caused him “to shed tears of gratitude.”  The author, a former priest who had protested Humanae Vitae in 1968, had written to tell Fr. Euteneuer about his conversion from dissident priest to his acceptance of the controversial and prophetic encyclical.

The writer of the letter had decided to sign HLI’s “Humanae Vitae Pledge,” promising loyalty to the teachings of the Catholic Church, obedience to the teachings of Humanae Vitae, and “to embrace God’s precious gift of life.”

“There is for me a special significance in signing this Pledge, and [it] will give me a peace of mind and heart that I have not experienced since 1968. In 1968 I was a young Franciscan priest studying in the Graduate School of Religious Education at Catholic University,” the man wrote.

The writer knew many who signed the document in protest of Humanae Vitae such as Fr. Charles Curran, Fr. Dan Maguire, and Fr. Robert Faricy, S.J. “Since they, as well as many other professors and graduate students were signing the Protest Document, I went along and did so also.”

“In 1975 for personal reasons not related to any doubts or questions about the Faith, or the Church, or the Religious Life…I requested and obtained…a dispensation from Pope Paul VI returning me to the Lay State. Later, I was married in the Church and raised my two children in the Faith….I have had many conversations with my Pastor and with his assistant (who is my spiritual director) about my days as a Franciscan Priest, and have been active in many of our parish’s lay apostolate and ministries.”

“But I have always regretted having signed the Protest Document against Pope Paul’s teaching in 1968, and having learned a few years ago that Fr. Faricy had publicly repudiated signing the Protest, I had wished that I, too, could repudiate in some official way, having signed the Protest….And so your ‘Pledge’ document offers me an opportunity to correct my mistake, and find healing – and telling you about all this helps me to feel that my repudiation of the Protest is now known and accepted in a kind of semi-official sort of way by an ‘authority’ in the Church.”

“And thank you for reading this, thereby humoring an old man, who despite everything else, knows that he is a ‘priest forever, according to the Order of Melchizedek.’"

Fr. Euteneuer explains that this conversion story demonstrates that: “in Christ’s Kingdom it is never too late, even after forty years, to fully embrace the Truth. All of us make mistakes and all of us sin, but He gives us all a chance to be reconciled with Him and turn our sorrow into joy.”

The HLI president chose to share the letter to honor the “priest’s desire to let his repudiation be a public testimony to others.”

The pledge can be found on CNA’s site for the 40th Anniversary of Humanae Vitae.

Laus Deo!

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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  1. John Polhamus says:

    How very beautiful. Living as we do in the age of the Mercy of God, it’s a grace to see someone make such public realization of it. God bless the man, and his family.

  2. Flambeaux says:

    Deo gratias.

  3. LCB says:

    I believe there was a time in our recent past when all clergy were required to sign pledges openly stating their belief and assent to Church teaching. Perhaps a HV oath might be another fine way to restore an old venerable tradition.

  4. Woody Jones says:

    Along these same lines, I was at dinner last night with a nice young Presbyterian couple who out of the blue said that they were keenly following the discussions about HV and were themslves coming around to believe that it was right all along. Evidently this is something of a trend in conservative Presbyterian (I suppose that means PCA rather than PCUSA) circles.

    I noted to them that so far as I knew the HV position was held universally by Christians of all ecclesial groupings until the Anglicans broke at their Lambeth conference in the 1930s.

    It would be interesting to track other instances along the same lines, such as, for example, Sunday observance. I recall from my own Pres. days reading about the old Scots who debated whether it was OK to ride the streetcar on a Sunday.

  5. Fr. BJ says:

    I believe there was a time in our recent past when all clergy were required to sign pledges openly stating their belief and assent to Church teaching. Perhaps a HV oath might be another fine way to restore an old venerable tradition.

    All seminarians, when called to the diaconate and then again when called to the priesthood, publicly make an oath of fidelity and (more detailed than the Nicene Creed) profession of faith, and I understand that this oath had been composed by the CDF (i.e. Cardinal Ratzinger). I found it a great joy to take the oath.

  6. sacredosinaeternum says:

    Deo gratias!!! As a young priest, I consider myself very blessed to have been ordained after the madness of the 60’s and 70’s, and by God’s mercy, have assented to and loved Humane Vitae from the first moment I read it. May many more priests from that era of dissent come around as well! St. John Vianney, pray for us!

  7. CPT Tom says:

    Fr. BJ and others,

    Is this universal within the Church? Would you please post a reference to that oath of Fidelity? I have been told (by a deacon) in my diocese (Rochester) that the Church does not “require 100% acceptance and internal assent…[that] Within Church teaching, there is a hierarchy of importance regarding its teaching and practices.” This was in the context of a discussion over HV and woman’s ordination and whether it was proper for Pastors and Pastoral Administrators be at odds with those teachings of the Church, either publicly or privately.

    I’m glad to hear this former priest see the error of his youth, unfortunately there seems to be many left in active ministry and leadership who haven’t and pridefully stick to their dissent.

  8. Michael says:

    Our convert can rest assured that he is in good company. Janet Smith in her book, Why Humanae Vitae Was Right?, introducing William May, a contributor, Professor at the Pope John Paul’s Institute on Marriage and Family, she says (p.363):

    Few have done more than William E. May to defend, by explaining, the Church’s condemnation of contraception. Perhaps his signing the protest against Humanae Vitae promoted by Father Charles Curran was a felix culpa for which we should be grateful; his repudiation of that deed seems to have galvanized him to become foremost of the moral theologians of our times, one of the two laymen serving on the International Theological Commission….Professor May’s contribution on this issue are a legion…”, and she goes on listing a full page (381).

    But we do not really need this, Father and Professor Kung, dissident theologian, is enough (Infallible? An Enquiry). He thinks the teaching is erroneous but he is fair enough to admit that the “conservative minority” of the Commission had a case by being “able to point out that”, and he continues with a quotation (54-55) from the Osservatore Romano:

    “history provides the fullest evidence …that the answer of the Church has always and everywhere been the same, from the beginning up to the present decade. One can find no period of history, no document of the Church, no theological school, scarcely one Catholic theologian, who ever denied that contraception was always seriously evil. The teaching of the Church is absolutely constant. Until the present century this teaching was peacefully possessed by all other Christians…The theological history of the use of matrimony is very complicated…On the contrary, the theological history of contraception, comparatively speaking, is sufficiently simple, at least with regard to the central question: Is contraception always seriously evil? For in answer to this question there has never been any variation and scarcely any evolution in the teaching. The ways of formulating and explaining this teaching have evolved, but not the doctrine itself. Therefore it is not a question of a teaching proposed 1930 which because of few physiological facts and new theological perspectives ought to be changed. It is a question rather of a teaching which until the present decade was constantly and authentically taught by the Church.”

    And he goes on: “How is one to respond to this? There are only two alternatives. One either accepts it as infallible…or one questions the whole theory of infallibility.” This “theory” is, p. 51-52: “unequivocally the Roman doctrine of the infallibility of the magisterium ordinarium in all its continuity, coherence and firmness, though it does not necessarily follow that it is Catholic doctrine.” He than goes on to challenge this “Roman…but not necessarily Catholic doctrine”; and finds it embarrassing to realize that “Vatican II completely adopted the teaching of textbook theology on the infallibility of the episcopate as a whole, in regard to both the extraordinary and the ordinary teaching office”(58). Analysing this teaching of Vatican II, LG 25 and DV 10, he says: “this is unquestionably the case in regard to the issue of contraception”(59).

    The subject is extensively elaborated by Ford (member of Commission) and Grisez (his philosophical/theological advisor, professor of philosophy and moral theology, author of the monumental manual of Moral Theology: The Way of the Lord Jesus) in their essay: Contraception and Infallibility of the Ordinary Magisterium, Theol. Studies, 1975, 39, 258-312.

  9. LCB says:

    I’ve attended multiple ordinations and never heard an oath of fidelity.

    Fine place to take such an oath. We should require similar things at marriage, especially in relation to HV.

  10. This is tremendously great and happy news! May God bless him for coming forward and being man enough to, publicly, admit he erred.

  11. Paul Madrid says:

    LCB, the oath is taken at the rite of admission to candidacy. See CIC c. 833. Candidates for priesthood do not take the oath and profession because they have already done so at the diaconate.

  12. Paul Madrid says:

    CPT Tom, yes the requirement is universal in the Latin Church. See CIC c. 833.

  13. Luca says:

    What do you think about Father Faricy SJ? I did not know about his protest against Humanae Vitae. Nowadays he is involved with a Charismatic group in Rome and he is a support of Theilard de Chardin’s theology. Can you give me more pieces of infomation?

  14. Randy Bollig says:

    Dear Father,

    You have a tremendous website and forum. My wife and I have been called to open a “Catholic” Pro Life Center in Denton Texas. To our knowledge, there is no such model in existence in the world.Our mission is to enhance and protect the sacredness of life from the “miracle” of conception to the “spiritual serenity” of a peaceful death. Please pray for us as we move forward in faith to open Loreto House in the 40th anniversary of Humanae Vitae. How fitting! Please visit Loretohouse.org for our full mission. We love your work!

    I would like to use some resources from your site on our website. Habemas Papem!

    God Bless,

    Randy Bollig

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