Archbishop Chaput Turns Back the Clock

Archbishop Chaput of Philadelphia, darling of the Catholic right, is in the news again doing his best to turn back the clock. First, he is re-introducing the Latin mass (here). His announcement cites “growing interest,” but makes no claims for any benefits. Nor does his announcement mention Vatican II, which the Archbishop is effectively rejecting.

Chaput’s other exhortation is even more striking, though perhaps less heralded: “Archbishop Chaput: the truth of Humanae Vitae makes us free.” Humanae Vitae is the papal encyclical which condemned all means of birth control other than celibacy and the rhythm method. If you are unfamiliar with the rhythm method, it not only involves keeping track of the woman’s menstrual cycle, but in the version covered in Humanae Vitae, required close monitoring of body temperature to determine exactly when conception could take place. The Mayo Clinic describes a simpler version (here).

Humanae Vitae not only claimed that the rhythm method was the only morally permissible means of birth control (other than celibacy) – artificial contraception was deemed a mortal sin – but the infallible papal pronouncement claimed it was also an effective means of birth control. In fact, it resulted in millions of unwanted pregnancies. But it was probably more effective than doing nothing, so the Church never admitted any error. Anyway, Archbishop Chaput still loves it. The Mayo Clinic claims that about 25% of women using the rhythm method get pregnant within a year.

Furthermore, especially with the more complex version recommended by the Church, all the spontaneity and most of the joy of sex is eliminated. Catholic couples spent an incredible amount of time plotting and measuring to determine when they could or could not have sex. This created a great deal of consternation. While Vatican II built good will, Humanae Vitae, which followed it, helped alienate the flock.

Today, the vast majority of Catholics use artificial contraception. Though this is still a mortal sin according to Humanae Vitae, which is officially infallible, the Church almost always remains silent. Don’t ask, don’t tell. But Archbishop Chaput, in his wisdom, is loudly insisting upon a return to the policies of Humanae Vitae. He even claims (here) that ignoring it has led to the sexual revolution and “the #MeToo movement, emotional wreckage, sexual disease and date rape.”

For his next act, Archbishop Chaput will restore the original name of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) – the Office of the Holy Inquisition. The bureaucracy is still in place, but reinstituting its earlier methods will take some work. Chaput’s conservative political allies can help. President Trump has often spoken admiringly about waterboarding, a favorite technique of the Inquisition. Other techniques not only provide a great spectacle - with potentially high ratings - but may prove useful in stifling illegal immigration, dissent, special prosecutors, and other unwanted activities.

 

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