Faithful Document on Marriage by the U.S. Bishops Has Implications for Canada

October 15, 2009 ( – At their upcoming general assembly in Baltimore from November 16-19, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) will debate and vote on a new pastoral letter on marriage.  A draft of the letter, entitled ‘Love and Life in the Divine Plan,’ has been leaked, and is already being praised by Catholic and pro-family leaders as a strong presentation of the Church’s teaching on marriage and a forceful rebuke of cultural attacks on authentic marriage and family life.

The draft, however, has also drawn harsh criticism from the leftist National Catholic Reporter (NCR), which wrote that “this turkey of a text,” which is “strangely, and fatally, at odds with the texts of the Second Vatican Council,” should be “scrap[ped]” in its entirety.  According to NCR, this pastoral letter is “not … pastoral,” with it “read[ing] as if it was written by someone who has never once engaged in a marriage preparation program, let alone actually ever been married.”  The first section “spends too much time talking about the threats to modern marriage,” they say, “such as high divorce rates, cohabitation, same-sex unions and, of course, contraception (an ‘intrinsic evil’).”

The American bishops are not pulling any punches as they try to save marriage in the U.S.   Whether they are ultimately successful or not, it will not be because they did not teach the truth with frankness, boldness, and vigour.  The same efforts, sadly, cannot be said for the Catholic bishops in this country who, for the most part, rolled over and died on this question a few years ago.  I blame the effects of the Winnipeg Statement for neutering them, but that’s another story.

Suffice it to say that that left wing rag, the National Catholic Reporter, is having convulsions that the Catholic bishops of America would dare condemn the idea that sodomy be officially recognized in marriage.  The National Catholic Reporter and their poster-boy reporter, John Allen Jr., readers will remember, came to the rescue of Fr. Rosica and his “Mad As Hell Marshmallow tour” during the Kennedy funeral scandal

But the draft pastoral letter explains the emphasis placed on these four main challenges against marriage (contraception, same-sex unions, divorce, and cohabitation), when it quotes the late Pope John Paul II in the introduction. The late pope insisted that today “the family is the object of numerous forces that seek to destroy it or in some way to deform it,” and, as such, for the good of society and the Church, “the church perceives in a more urgent and compelling way her mission of proclaiming to all people the plan of God for marriage and the family” (Familiaris Consortio 3).

The bishops develop their critique based especially on the teaching of John Paul II and that of Pope Paul VI in his encyclical Humanae Vitae (HV).  They affirm the complementarity of man and woman, saying that the two are “uniquely suited to be partners or helpmates for each other,” and reiterate the teaching on the two ends or meanings of marriage – that marriage, and the marital act, is meant to always be both “procreative” and “unitive.”

“Just as there are two inseparable meanings of marriage as a whole, the same is true of the act most symbolic and expressive of the marriage as a whole, namely, the act of sexual intercourse,” they explain. “Church teaching speaks of an ‘inseparable connection, established by God, which man on his own initiative may not break, between the unitive significance and the procreative significance which are both inherent to the marriage act'(HV 12).”

Asserting that contraception is “an intrinsically evil action,” they refute the claim, as Pope Paul did, that each individual marital act need not be open to children if the marriage as a whole is open.  “Marriage is only as open to procreation as each act of intercourse is,” they state, “because the whole marriage is present and signified in each marital act.”

Through contraception, “the union of male and female is reduced to a means of gratifying whatever one desires, and so conjugal love is diminished.  The procreative capacity of male and female is dehumanized, reduced to a kind of internal biological technology that one masters and controls just like any other technology.”

“The procreative capacity of man and woman should not be treated as just another means of technology, like in vitro fertilization (IVF) or cloning,” they continue, emphasizing that through such practices “human life itself is degraded,” and “children begin to seem less and less as gifts received in a personal communion of mutual self-giving, and increasingly as a lifestyle choice, a commodity to which all consumers are entitled.”

The draft encourages the use of natural family planning (NFP) in the regulation of birth, whether to avoid or attain pregnancy, though they omit an explicit reference to Pope Paul’s insistence that “serious reasons” (HV 10) are needed to justify delaying pregnancy.

The letter then condemns the recent attempts to redefine marriage to allow for homosexual ‘marriage’, and speaks out, in union with the Vatican, against any legal recognition of same-sex unions.

Note the text highlighted in red above.  Have you ever heard the Catholic Bishops of Canada ever saying such a thing? No. They have never called contraception “an intrinsic evil“. 


In fact, the only “pastoral message” they have put forward to support Humanae Vitae only touched on contraception in passing in their otherwise solid pastoral document, Liberating Potential:

Abortion, sterilization and contraception are in opposition to the Creator’s intention at the heart of sexual intercourse, preventing, if God so desires, the creation of a unique soul for the unique body that the spouses help to form.” (Liberating Potential, 15)

They merely say it is in “opposition to the Creator’s intention”, but they do not call it an intrinsic evil.  Such a phrase strikes at the heart of their ‘soft rebellion’ against Rome.

They don’t condemn it with stark and clear language, of course, because the Winnipeg Statement has never been retracted.

The USCCB has adopted marriage as one of their five national priorities in the upcoming years.  “This letter will be the launch for several new projects that will offer resources for local pastoral ministries,” said Dr. Richard McCord, the Executive Director of the USCCB Secretariat of Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth. “We also plan to continue developing what has already been successful, especially a public service media campaign on the good effects of marriage as well as our popular website,, that provides an abundance of practical materials for engaged and married couples.”

Read the whole article here.

I can’t help but also note the website the U.S. Bishops cite as providing solid advice on Marriage and Family Life,

This is the same website, by the way, that cautioned Catholics about Richard Gaillardetz’s views on contraception:

A website called, an initiative of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, warned readers of his book A Daring Promise: A Spirituality of Marriage.  Some time ago, the book was review by the Bishop’s site and stated: 

Several points may disturb some readers.  Draws upon Pope John Paul II’s theology of the body yet offers gentle criticism. After admonishing couples to embrace church teaching on family planning through sound understanding and surrender to the rigorous demands of Christianity, he notes that a couple who still “cannot discover in (magisterial teaching) God’s will” can follow their consciences. While he says most “domestic churches” are constituted by marriage and include children, he includes under that term other households. (Source)

Gaillardetz, of course, is the featured key-note speaker at the upcoming CCCB plenary session in Cornwall which begins Oct. 19. So while the Americans are calling out Gaillardetz for what he is, the Canadian bishops are giving him the stage to tickle them with his dissenting theology.

One thought on “Faithful Document on Marriage by the U.S. Bishops Has Implications for Canada

  1. I think that it no coincidence that a year after the Winnipeg statement was issued in 1968, abortion in Canada became a reality in 1969. Also no coincidence that in the 40 years since there was mostly silence in the face of abortion, and now we have euthanasia breathing down our necks. Now, finally, people are beginning to awake from their slumber a bit. The Father of All Lies wants to kill us all, and is first starting at youngest and oldest, but of course hates everybody inbetween as well. I think that the Winnipeg Statement should be publically and formally retracted, but I’m just a peasant with no authority. What we need is a leader in authority to strike it down.

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