Fifty-five years ago, St. Pope Paul VI promulgated Humanae Vitae, a papal encyclical that unequivocally clarified the Church’s perennial opposition to artificially contracepted sex. Although this teaching faced resistance from several theologians and even bishops at the time, it has been reaffirmed and further developed by subsequent papal teaching, from St. John Paul II’s Evangelium Vitae to the current version of the Catechism of the Catholic Church recently revised by Pope Francis, which describes the practice as “intrinsically evil.”
Now, a Vatican institute, ironically first created by the late great Polish pope and saint, is pushing for a “paradigm shift” in moral theology that would include departing from established teaching on contraception, but also euthanasia and forms of artificial conception—and supporters of this “radical change” are urging Pope Francis to follow suit with an encyclical affirming this radical break from five decades of post-conciliar magisterial consensus.
The revelations are included in a recent text issued by the Pontifical Academy for Life (PAL), an ecclesial thinktank established by St. John Paul in 1994 to study and provide guidance “on the principal problems of biomedicine and of law, relative to the promotion and defense of life, above all in the direct relation that they have with Christian morality and the directives of the Church’s Magisterium.”
PAL describes Theological Ethics of Life: Scripture, Tradition, and Practical Challenges, a 528-page synthesis of the proceedings of a 2021 PAL-sponsored theological seminar, as “a contribution that elaborates a Christian vision of life by expounding it from the perspective of an anthropology appropriate to the cultural mediation of faith in today’s world.”
The text’s introduction, written by Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, the Academy’s president since 2016, describes the “paradigm shift” in moral theology it introduces as “both descriptive and conceptual, as it follows a pattern that is both argumentative and narrative, theoretical and sapiential, phenomenological and interpretative.”
“The text carries out a radical change, moving as it were, from the sphere to the polyhedron,” wrote Archbishop Paglia. “This is not a handbook of formulas or catalogue of cases that can be taken out of the context of the overall argument. Rather, it is a fundamental exposition of the Christian vision of life, illustrated in its existential aspects that are most relevant to the dramatic nature of the human condition and addressed from the perspective of an anthropology that is appropriate to the cultural mediation of faith in today’s world….”
The above comes from a July 13 posting in the National Catholic Register.