Clarification on the Legend of Paul VI’s ‘Permission’
*Pursuant to my recent post on Pope Francis’ ambiguous and confusing remarks on contraception, it turns out that my initial discomfiture of hearing of Paul VI’s supposed permission to nuns in the Congo to use the Pill in case they were raped was a healthy sign: According to Father Z (his blog posting on this is well worth the read, and leads one to wonder how much else out there is ‘urban legend’) Paul VI, it seems, gave no such permission. The story can be traced back to one magazine article by three theologians speculating in 1961, two years before Paul VI became Pope. There was a similar ‘Magisterial’ legend about John Paul II giving Bosnian nuns permission to use the Pill. False again. It does pay to check one’s sources; thank you, Father Z.
*So Pope Francis was citing an urban legend (which, like most people, he thought true) to implicitly give permission to use contraception, which, legend notwithstanding, he has no right to do, and every duty to refrain from doing. Alas, and alas again. The confusion is still sown, and this piece of wind will indeed reap the whirlwind of confusion and bad practice.
*Hence, allow me to retract my initial defense of Paul VI’s non-existent ‘permission’. I will have to think more on this matter, but contraception is still very much an intrinsic, and grave, evil.
*Today is the feast of the Chair of Saint Peter, dedicated to the papacy as the supreme pastor of all the faithful. On that note, whatever concessions are given to the Orthodox in the coming years to move towards reunion, there can be no budging on the principle that the Supreme Pontiff has, as Lumen Gentium, the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, declares (par. 22) “full, supreme universal power over the Church. And he is always free to exercise this power”. Or, in the original Latin: Vicarii scilicet Christi et totius Ecclesiae Pastoris, plenam, supremam et universalem potestatem, quam semper libere exercere valet”.
How he chooses to exercise that power is, within certain limits, up to each individual Pope.
*So let us pray for the Holy Father, for the chair he occupies is indeed too big for any mortal man, and only the grace of Christ can allow one to fulfill such an office.
Sancte Petre, ora pro nobis!