In the Light of the Law

Interesting parallels are being suggested between, on the one hand, Paul VI’s dithering over contraception in the 1960s (which, though reversed by his reassertion of Church teaching in Humanae vitae, contributed to widespread repudiation of that teaching by Catholics), and Francis’ recent mixed signals (or what are widely perceived as mixed signals) over the future of Church teaching against divorce-and-remarriage and the reception of holy Communion. Notwithstanding some important differences between the two men and situations, I write to suggest that the stakes for all might actually be higher this time around.

Consider two points:

First, Church teaching against contraception had to be teased out over the centuries from natural law theory and what we call now ‘theology of the body’. It rests today largely on conclusions of logic, philosophy, and theology. Church teaching against divorce-and-remarriage, in contrast, is expressly proclaimed in the New Testament and any literate Catholic can read Jesus’ strong words…

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