In 2017, an article by Fr. James V. Schall appeared in Crisis Magazine titled “Why No Civility is Possible Today.” In this article, he states: “…what we have today in this country is an unbridgeable disagreement about what a family is. Misunderstand the family and all its coherent complexities, what follows is that nothing else will go right. We have no common judgment about the transcendent meaning of our lives. One division maintains, with no real proof, that man has no given nature. Logically and politically, step by step, consequences, that are not accidental, follow. We legalize contraception, then, when that does not work, abortion, euthanasia, fetal experimentation, homosexual marriages and adoptions. We can even decide if we are male or female. A “family” is configured as we wish it to be. These practices have all become “rights” under positive law. They are systematically enforced. No criticism of them is allowed, no matter how scientifically or reasonably based…”
There are two points of great interest in this paragraph: First, that the family is being systematically undermined, and second, that the acceptance of contraception as morally licit, was the first step in this process. What is not mentioned is that one of the goals of Marxism, laid out in the Communist Manifesto (1848), was, quote, “Abolition of the family!”
Contraception was recognized as immoral by all Christian denominations until, in 1930, the Anglicans changed their teaching. That same year, Pope Pius XI responded with the encyclical Casti Connubii. In it he states “…any use whatsoever of matrimony exercised in such a way that the act is deliberately frustrated in its natural power to generate life is an offense against the law of God and of nature, and those who indulge in it are branded with the guilt of grave sin.” He went on to warn priests: “If any... pastor… leads the faithful entrusted to him into these errors or should at least confirm them by approval or guilty silence, let him be mindful … that he must render a strict account to God, the Supreme Judge, for the betrayal of his sacred trust…”
In accord with this, in 1935, the Archbishop of St. Paul, John Murray, sent this directive to his priests:
SAINT PAUL, MINN.
August 6, 1935
Dear Reverend Father:
Action taken recently by various national, state and community organizations extending membership to groups devoted to the propaganda of birth-control and sterilization makes it necessary to call your attention to the ethics governing the relationship of individuals and societies to any organized body adopting principles or policies in violation of the natural law.
That there may be no doubt in the minds of your people as to their obligations in this matter, please announce at all the masses on Sunday, August eighteenth, that hereafter no individual or group of individuals or society may accept or retain membership in any organization recognizing or supporting birth-control or sterilization.
Persons employed in any position that involves cooperation of any kind in the process of supporting, promoting or effecting either birth-control or sterilization must withdraw from such employment.
Physicians, nurses, social workers who contribute to the dissemination of knowledge or participate in any action designed to effectuate birth-control or sterilization must be denied the sacraments, until they have agreed to repair as far as possible the injury done and guarantee to refrain from cooperation with such evil.
Relief workers who may be commanded to propagate these evils for economic or social reasons must refuse to become agents of such anti-social and demoralizing activity.
All persons who have held membership in any society, conference or federation which has countenanced these evils by accepting them in policy or principle or permitting those professing these evils to associate themselves formally with such groups must send formal notice of withdrawal from the group.
The small bands of vicious propagandists who have captured the fancy or destroyed the morale of our social leadership do not represent the great body of American thought and morals. The propaganda within private and public welfare groups must find an antidote in the organized force of sane thinking and sound ethics. For that reason further information will be sent to you in the near future to enable you to set in action a movement to restore the code of correct philosophy to its proper place in the government of social welfare agencies.
With best wishes, I remain
Very faithfully yours,
Archbishop of Saint Paul
On July 25, 1968, Pope Paul VI issued the encyclical Humanae Vitae, which restated the Church’s teaching on contraception. On August 9, 1968, a front page headline in the Minneapolis Tribune read: “Birth Control Ban Criticized by 76 Priests.” 76 of 615 priests in this diocese publicly dissented from the Church’s teaching. They wrote, “…we find it difficult, if not impossible, to accept the conclusions of the encyclical…” They suffered no consequences. But Catholic teaching on contraception has not changed. The cultural breakdown and violence we are experiencing can be traced to the failure to transmit, and disregard for, this teaching. This month, your station will air several programs clarifying the truth about contraception. Living by that truth will, in turn, help individuals, marriages and the family, and by extension, our country.
Please support your station through prayer, by telling others, by offering to volunteer or distribute program guides, or a financial contribution if possible.
Wishing you a holy Lent,
Michael Bird, President and volunteer
Note: A good resource on this is the book Contraception and Persecution, by Charles Rice (South Bend, Indiana: St. Augustine’s Press, 2014). Also, on the St. Michael Broadcasting website, under “Resources,” see the article “On the Fortieth Anniversary of Humanae Vitae,” by Father George Welzbacher - July 27, 2008.