(CCCB-Ottawa)… At the close of their 2008 Plenary Assembly which met in Cornwall, 22-26 September, the Bishops of Canada issued a pastoral letter, titled “Liberating Potential”, which invites all the faithful “to discover or rediscover,” the message of the Encyclical Humanae Vitae, issued by Pope Paul VI in 1968.The Plenary Assembly described the encyclical as a “prophetic document,” especially in view of “the troubling evolution of two fundamental human institutions, marriage and the family.” The message of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB) goes on to say that the family and marriage “continue to be affected by the contraceptive mentality feared and rejected in the encyclical of Pope Paul VI.”“Nevertheless, Humanae Vitae is much more than a ‘no to contraception,’” the Bishops insist. Citing the encyclical, they point out that “It proposes a vision of the whole person and the whole mission to which each person is called.” The CCCB message describes the encyclical as “an invitation to be open to the grandeur, beauty and dignity of the Creator’s call to the vocation of marriage.”The Bishops of Canada point out what they say is an important link between Humanae Vitae and the “theology of the body,” developed by Pope John Paul II between 1979 and 1984. These reflections of John Paul II are a “pedagogy” to help appreciate the theological and pastoral significance of Humanae Vitae, they say. The Bishops observe that in marriage, the “act of flesh, the gift of bodies,” expresses “the totality of the gift of the persons, the one to the other,” by which “the man and the woman are, in the flesh, the image of the divine Trinity.” The CCCB pastoral letter points out that in the words of Pope John Paul II, “by means of its visible masculinity and femininity, the body, and it alone, is capable of making visible what is invisible: the spiritual and the divine.”In their message, the Bishops of Canada also call for a more profound reflection on married life and on the meaning of sexual intercourse. “Catholics and all men and women of good will” are encouraged to reflect on both in the light of Humanae Vitae and the “theology of the body.” “Sexuality is a friend, a gift of God,” they state. “It is revealed to us by the Trinitarian God” who invites Christians and others “to reveal it in turn in all its grandeur and dignity to our contemporaries at this start of the third millennium.” (Source)
It is a sorely needed document to help re-establish the Church’s teaching on contraception in Canada, which has, for the past 40 years, been shaped by the heretical Winnipeg Statement and whose 40th anniversary tomorrow (Sept.27) we also mark.
I couldn’t help chuckle at this paragraph:
3. Indeed, how can we fail to recognize its prophetic character when we consider the troubling evolution of two fundamental human institutions, marriage and the family? Both continue to be affected by the contraceptive mentality feared and rejected in the encyclical of Pope Paul VI. And what can be said of the future demographic deficit confronting Western societies?
How sad that the bishops didn’t recognize Humanae Vitae’s “prophetic character” when they wrote the Winnipeg Statement 40 years ago. It would have saved our society much pain, suffering, and death now and well into the forseeable future. It was an epic disaster of epic proportions.
I very much doubt that we will ever see a formal retraction of the Winnipeg Statement now. But, at least, its “teaching authority” can hopefully be trapped in those 40 years from September 27, 1968 to September 26, 2008. Let’s hope that no one ever opens that pandora’s box again.
Ultimately, The Rosarium wanted the Canadian Church to reflect the teaching of Rome. This document now does that. For the 40 years previously, the Canadian Church’s position on birth control did not reflect the teachings of Rome. Those responsible for creating and promoting and defending the Winnipeg Statement will have to give an account at the Judgement.
Although our end game was to get the Winnipeg Statement retracted, there would have been a void with a simple retraction. This Statement fills this void with a strong teaching document.
In some ways, it’s a victory for us. Because they didn’t even mention the Winnipeg Statement, it’s almost as if they weren’t even acknowledging it. In the past they’ve always tried to justify its “interpretation”. There was none of that this time around.
Pastoral documents, by their very nature, are restricted to their time. They are not a doctrinal statement per se. Pastoral documents are binding until they are later 1) withdrawn or 2) superceded. We received #2. And I’ll take that to the bank any day.
I’m not sure how much influence The Rosarium had in the end, but I’d like to think it was a modest influence. God bless Msgr. Vincent Foy’s faithfulness these past 40 years for holding the line and being a thorn in the side of the bishops by his constant witness. He is a true priest of God, if there ever was one. Also to be thanked are the nearly 2000 people who signed our petition. Their prayers did not go unanswered.
Despite this wonderful document, however, The Rosarium will continue to call for the formal retraction of the Winnipeg Statement.