Monday, 19 March 2007

Screwtape on Humanae Vitae

Some years ago, (on the 25th Anniversary of Humanae Vitae) 'Catholic Family,' a paper in the UK, carried a series of letters about it, copying C S Lewis' device of letters from a senior to a junior devil. The name Hogwort was coined before J K Rowling used something similar in the Harry Potter books. Here's the first letter (re-published, with permission):

My dear Hogwort

It seems funny to be writing letters again after all this time. Since the deplorable demise of Wormwood, I have not had anyone to supervise in the same way. Wormwood, let me remind you, would still be with us - possibly as a great tempter - had he only had the guts to follow my advice.

It still makes me furious when I remember how he let that simpering little human slip through his hands by a series of blunders that...

Enough. You ask for my advice and help in pursuing your studies, and of course I give it freely: which you would do well to remember when I ask for your help on any little matter.

Remember, however, that degrees and diplomas are of no use at all unless you apply the learning in practice for the conquest of human souls. That was one of the many errors that Wormwood made.

I would also point out that it is entirely inappropriate for a junior tempter like you to have, let alone express, any opinion on someone as senior as Slubgob. If you have heard rumours that he and I have had our differences, you are quite misled. He is the principal of your college, and you owe him respect and allegiance.

As for your specific complaint, that he is too interested in sex, I think that merely shows your own lack of experience. Of course sex is boring to us, and indeed, when used as the Enemy intended, wholly hateful. However, the potential for enslaving humans with it, and for causing division in the family, the Church, and the civic society with it are almost boundless. And the delight is that all this is accomplished by using sex, which was designed as a gift and a pleasure to take the creatures ever closer to the Enemy.

Slubgob is quite right to make you all study our sustained campaign against Humanae Vitae: When you come to have the responsibility for tempting souls, you will need to have all the weaponry possible at your disposal in this very rich area.

Over the course of my next few letters, I hope to give you something of an old campaigner's view of this particular battle: by the time I've finished with you, you certainly won't find sex boring: frightening in its awesome design by the Enemy, certainly; intriguing in its endless possibilities for corruption, definitely; but boring, never! For now, to whet your appetite and demonstrate the importance of this topic, I'd ask you to consider the fruits of our campaign against Humanae Vitae:

1 Widespread ignorance and confusion within the Church, from both laity and clerics

2 Disobedience, leading to the abandonment of vocations, lapsing of practice and loss of Faith

3 A 'pick and mix' approach to the Church's teaching, both of Faith and Morals

4 A total distortion of the role of conscience

5 Pleasure and desires seen to be all-important

6 A host of side effects, such as weakness in the Church's fight against abortion, etc.

If you are daring to think that none of these are explicitly linked to the use of contraceptives, forget it. I shall make the links clear over the next few letters, and give you some real examples - or case studies as you like to call them.

If you still doubt the importance of our attack on Humanae Vitae, just look at the other side of the coin, at those disgusting humans who still hold out against us and live by it, or attempt to. They tend to exhibit many, if not all, of these virtues that make our work so damnedly difficult:

1 Self control

2 Habit of governing their actions by their beliefs

3 Regular practice at standing up to the ridicule of the world

4 Discipline and obedience

5 Humility

6 Regular confession

7 Mutual respect and love

It makes me seethe when I consider them.

I hope by now that you will begin to see why the attack on Humanae Vitae is not merely central to your studies, but to the whole diabolic strategy for the present era of the war.

Your affectionate mentor,



bill bannon said...


The original public birth control sincere dissenters were the rythmn people from the Family Life Movement who sent letters by the thousands to Pat Crowley of the birth control commission seeking change since they, unlike you, were stuck with a very inaccurate natural method.

There is a pick and mix attitude in Popes also on entirely different topics and no Catholic pundit will say it or he'll be out of a career and mortgage bloggers would be out of clicks.

I long for the day when someone on a Catholic blog can see that cafeteria Catholicism can also happen to Popes...including the last one. While he was vocal about "constant tradition" on birth control (try counting the Popes who said a thing about it'll be at less than 15 Popes amongst hundreds), he...Pope John Paul II.... departed from "constant tradition" as soon as he wanted to....on the issue of husband headship (in both Dignitatem Mulieris, sect.24, par.3&4 and and the Theology of the Body section 89.3-4) which headship was sternly affirmed in Casti Cannubii by another Pope(see section 74...."The same false teachers who try to dim the luster of conjugal faith and purity do not scruple to do away with the honorable and trusting obedience which the woman owes to the man.")
and it has 6...count them....passages in the New Testament as clear as a bell. There is also the "be subject to one another" mentioned only once but totally binding yet meant as was always understood to happen along with husband headship but at different moments within a marriage.

Not one Cardinal or Bishop said boo in support of the 6 verses from...who?....God actually...because our hierarchy is too dependent on those above them for the very location of their home.

This is how we lose intellectual credibility in the eyes of anyone who really reads. And it's one reason why our leaders do not seek debates in the best Universities as long as we have not explained the authority layers to ourselves to begin with.

We slight our own laity and fail to notice the same trends in our popes.

John Paul was cafeteria again when he called the death penalty "cruel" in a 1999 speech and that his own several times revised catechism
which admits in #2267 that it was always in catholic tradition. Gee the Fathers would have noted it is also in Romans 13:4 which John Paul never mentioned in Evangelium Vitae.
And again no one called John Paul on it because clergy would lose their place in the chain and Catholic lay and clergy feel brave calling the laity cafeteria Catholics while having zero honesty to point that same accusation at Popes.

In the 19th century at least 3 Popes stated that freedom of conscience in religious matters was wrong (and freedom of the press)...Vatican II voided them.

So.....should laity imitate the consistency of the top people? Death penalty most our history/ no death freedom of conscience and religion/ yes freedom of religion according to conscience....husband headship or one is a false prophet / no...only mutual subjection.

And the laity and lower clergy are the only ones who are confused...roflol.

The point is that Canon Law (749-3)holds that in ecclesiatical courts for an issue to be deemed heretical, the infallibility must be "manifestly evident" which it is not on birth control since not a soul has been charged with heresy therein and others have been charged with heresy in Germany and in Sri Lanka recently for other real infallible issues. Birth control is binding under mortal sin probably under Vatican II's Lumen Gentium 25 which requires "religious submission of mind and will" to the Pope in non infallible matters when he has repeated the issue and stated it in high level documents which the Popes have in the 20th century on birth control.
Can one dissent? One can on birth control but only with prayer, counsel and study... because at the Vatican Council, three Bishops submitted a query to the Theological Commission at the Council on Lumen Gentium 25... noting that it was incomplete as it stood since if every person submitted to non infallible matters with mind and will....we would still be avoiding interest on all loans as mortal sin and against natural law, and we would still be opposing freedom of religion as three Popes did in the 19th century in encyclicals....check Quanta Cura for one.
The Theological Commission answered the Bishops that they were going to let Lumen Gentium stay as it was but directed the three Bishops on the rights of dissent to the Moral Theology manuals that are used in seminaries etc. Thus the commission was agreeing with their core idea but loathe to include it in Lumen Gentium 25. Those manuals of moral theology traditionally affirm the right to dissent in non infallible matters if such dissent is the result not of rashness but of prayer, study and counsel with the proviso usually that the dissenter keeps his dissent private to himself.

When the birth control encyclical was released in 1968 at a press conference on July 29th, Monseignor Lambrushini noted that it was not infallible but it was binding. On the next day in the US over 80 Catholic theologians dissented publicly from it at their press conference and that number grew to over 600 during the ensuing years....and in August several members of the birth control commission from the Council held their own conference and dissented including Pat Crowley who had received thousands of letters from people who had been obedient to the then inaccurate form of natural planning and whose letters often expressed the desire that the Church change and they gave their stories. According to Crowley, one theologian on the commission said that the letters had influenced 90% of the theologians on the commission.

This story is never told because it contradicts the Catholic zeitgeist of people who would have called interest takers in 1655 AD..."heretics" ....heretics who proved to be correct in an issue that Rome only solved in the 19th century when we arrived at the answer that Calvin gave in 1545...yet our encyclopedias dress it up as though our ordinary magisterium was never incorrect and was wisely changing with the economies. LOL....if you loaned your cousin 3000 ducats to vacation in France in 1712 AD and charged him i cent in interest, you were sinning mortally...if you do it now, it's perfectly OK and not matter for confession which it was then.

It is the universal ordinary magisterium that is never incorrect...the ordinary magisterium can be. The ordinary magisterium had light torture on the books in the decretals for centuries; now Rome says all torture is evil. Both periods and venues are the ordinary magisterium....and either can be wrong.

Ben Trovato said...

Thanks for the comment - just saw it today as have had some IT problems...

I'm not quite sure what your main point is: if it's that popes are not always infallible (" cafeteria Catholicism can also happen to Popes...including the last one") I would of course agree.

There have been some very dubious popes, and even the best aren't right all the time.

Which makes it all the more remarkable that the Holy Spirit has prevented any of them from promulgating error ex cathedra.

If your point is rather to question the wisdom of Humanae Vitae, I remain unconvinced: the evidence on the other side is overwhelming in my view.