Sunday, February 28, 2016

MORAL TEACHINGS OF THE CHURCH CAN NEVER BE DOGMATICALLY DEFINED IN A RIGID WAY IN EVERY SITUATION, BE IT LIFE OR DEATH! AND EVEN THE POPE'S OFF-THE-CUFF REMARKS ON ARTIFICIAL BIRTH CONTROL ARE NOT FORIEGN TO CATHOLIC MORAL THEOLOGY PRE OR POST VATICAN II!


The Church does not need to declare any of the 10 Commandments to be infallible because these are so by virtue of being the 10 Commandments from God.

But is there ever a decision of conscience one can make to kill someone who is innocent? Yes, in a just war situation,which by the way is taught by the Church not as a doctrine but as a theological proposition or theory.  And with an unjust aggressor one has the right to kill in self defense if that is the only recourse to prevent injury or death to the one being attacked. A person may kill himself by jumping on a small bomb to save the lives of others.

When it comes to artificial birth control and abortion, these would seem to be on the surface as binding a the 5th Commandment, thou shalt not kill. But in fact, many conservative Catholics give a more dogmatic spin on these teachings than they do on the 5th Commandment. They allow for no wiggle room or decisions of conscience based upon sound moral principals or theology.

I have been and continue to be critical of Pope Francis reducing his papacy to soundbites and off-the-cuff remarks in interviews. It is unfortunate and we can ask His Holiness in the most respectful ways to stop doing it and to be clearer or unambiguous in his teachings and to be consistent as well. He speaks out of both sides of his mouth in many ways. I suspect there are those among the Cardinals and the College of Bishops who are sounding the alarm bell to His Holiness directly. It is their specific responsibility to do so. Others who have access to the pope can do so as well, directly or by mail. St. Catherine of Siena comes to mind in this regard.

However, despite the non magisterial occasion for these comments aboard a flight back to Italy after a long, exhausting pilgrimage for the pope, what the pope said is not foreign to Catholic moral theology.

Theology tries to explain doctrine, but it isn't doctrine and in pastoral settings a priest must let people to know what their options are in terms of a well formed conscience and how to reach a decision of conscience in very difficult circumstances. The Church is clear about artificial birth control. But there are some women for whom a pregnancy would be a death sentence. She needs to consult with her doctor as well as with the Church and her family. If she chooses sterilization or artificial birth control that does not cause a spontaneous abortion, this is a decision of her conscience and she and she alone will be held responsible by God the just Judge at her particular judgement. The Church should not interfere in that decision of conscience made for clear moral reasons but also because of legal liability if the person gets pregnant and dies and she as she dies or her family says the Church told her not to use artificial birth control or be sterilized despite knowing that if she got pregnant she would die. The family could sue in court and the priest could be charged in some places with "giving a gun to a person to shoot themselves."

The same with abortion. If a mother is diagnosed with a quick moving cancer during pregnancy. She can choose chemotherapy during the pregnancy even though it will indirectly cause a spontaneous abortion. The intent is not to end the pregnancy but cure the cancer.

She could choose, though, to forgo the chemotherapy and die in order to save the baby. That is her decision of conscience, as a Catholic she must make it in consultation with the Church, her doctors and family. She is ultimately the responsible person before God.

This is what the Filipino bishops said and it is sound theology, but not doctrine, but Catholic theology it is:

"Pope Francis is reported to have given a press conference while en route to Rome after his historical trip to Cuba and to Mexico. He was apprised of the Zika virus and the possibility that pregnant women afflicted by the disease would seek abortion.

"The Holy Father was very clear and uncompromising about the evil of abortion. And we, your bishops, reiterate Church teaching: No matter that the child in the womb may be afflicted with some infirmity or deformity, it can never be moral to bring a deliberate end to human life. It is never for us to judge who should live or die!

"He then proffered the view that the evil of contraception was not of the same magnitude as the evil of abortion. Clearly, this was sound moral reasoning. The evil of stealing a few pesos cannot be compared with the evil of plunder.

"The Pope was in no way changing Church teaching on the unacceptability of artificial means of contraception. He however usefully called attention to two important moral precepts.

"First, there may be circumstances that invite a re-evaluation of the judgment on artificial means of contraception. Second, the prodding of conscience should always be heeded, as long as every effort is made to form conscience properly.

"These positions are not in any way new. They have always formed part of Catholic moral theology and belong to the treasury of the Church’s heritage in health-care ethics.

"Once more, the Pope has shown his sensitivity to complex human situations, allowed the world see the merciful face of the Church – the sacrament of a Merciful Lord – as he has remained the faithful steward of the message of the Gospel."

25 comments:

Anonymous said...

No.

"Every action which, whether in anticipation of the conjugal act, or in its accomplishment, or in the development of its natural consequences, proposes, whether as an end or as a means, to render procreation impossible is intrinsically evil" (CCC 2370). "Legitimate intentions on the part of the spouses do not justify recourse to morally unacceptable means . . . for example, direct sterilization or contraception" (CCC 2399).

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

You are correct and the Church would teach the same thing about killing people during war. It is intrinsically evil to use weapons of mass destruction to injure or kill an enemy combatant who has been conscripted into the armed forces of his country and order to fight.

Moreover a Catholic using a bomber plane to drop bombs us using an evil means to render life dead, be it the enemy or the civilian population in harm's way. The intent is not to kill the innocent but they happen to be in the way.

Why so rigid on birth control but not on weapons, even in war, that kill the innocent and Catholics through a theory called the "just war" theory are given a pass in war time?

Anonymous said...

Why so rigid? It has nothing to do with being rigid. If things were up to me I was say do whatever you want as long as it doesn't hurt anyone else. But being a creature and not the Creator, things aren't up to me. I have to be obedient to the Almighty. And it's not my place to question what He says I can and can't do.

"Legitimate intentions on the part of the spouses do not justify recourse to morally unacceptable means . . . for example, direct sterilization or contraception" (CCC 2399).

It's not a matter of being rigid. That's what the Church teaches. I don't have an option except to obey. Something isn't evil because the Church says it is evil. The Church says it is evil because it IS evil. God speaks through the magisterium and I am not about to be the judge of God. And no one, not even the bestest pope ever, can change, modify or alter the truth. Another example, God said you shal not commit adultery and Cardinal Kasper can't justify it nor can Francis.

Dialogue said...

At a time in history when almost no one believes contraception is evil, what good can be achieved by discussing exceptions? More generally, what is the real motive behind teaching exceptions to rules, but never teaching anyone the rules themselves?

FYI: the word "doctrine" means "teaching".

Anonymous said...

Father may I remind you of Genesis 2 16-17

16 And he commanded him, saying: Of every tree of paradise thou shalt eat: 17 But of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat. For in what day soever thou shalt eat of it, thou shalt die the death

There was nothing intrinsically wrong with eating fruit from a tree.

What made it a sin was that God commanded that Adam was forbidden to do this. Because God Himself said no, that in itself made the action sinful. Case closed. There is no rationalizing eating that fruit.

It would not have been "pastoral" to advise Adam and Eve to eat the fruit, it's ok. Imagine if somebody did that. Oh wait, somebody did say that. Who was that again? Oh I remember. It was the Devil.

Anonymous said...

"Why so rigid on birth control but not on weapons, even in war, that kill the innocent and Catholics through a theory called the "just war" theory are given a pass in war time?"

Your post and this comment conflate two different issues. One issue (just war) has been explicated and approved in the Church's moral theology, while the other (some use of artificial birth control) has never been approved. You may find this rigid, unfair, or nonsensical, but by doing so you only demonstrate a lack of due obedience to the Catholic Faith and an attempt to place the opinion of medicine over the truth taught by the Church (a principle, it must be added, that calls the entirety of the Church's moral teachings into eventual revision).

Just as you, Fr. Allan J. McDonald, have no authority to create your own liturgical rite through violation of liturgical norms, you have much less the authority to judge the Church's moral teachings to be in need to revision. To place the Church's morals in a state of flux and revision due to the utterances of a pope or his official spokesman is to profess a Faith of men and the world and not the Faith of the God-man, Jesus Christ, who is the same yesterday, today, and forever. As an ordained priest of Jesus Christ, you can do no less than profess the Faith handed down to you in its integrity, defend it with all your strength, and continually pray for the greater acceptance of its truth and moral obligations for both yourself and those of your flock. A failure to do this is a violation of the norms of the Catholic priesthood as well as a stain on the Mystical Body of Christ.

Anonymous said...

"It's not a matter of being rigid. That's what the Church teaches. I don't have an option except to obey. Something isn't evil because the Church says it is evil. The Church says it is evil because it IS evil."

Thank you for your clarity. This is exactly right. It all comes down to whether one believes that the Church is the Mother and Teacher of the faithful and pillar and ground of the truth, or whether truth is mutable and Tradition is encapsulated in the hands of the pope, who insofar as he is a member of the Church, has no more authority to alter the Church's faith and morals as does you or me, and in fact will be judged the more harshly insofar as he attempts to try.

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

The Filipino bishops on commenting on the Pope's statement on birth control enunciated Catholic moral theology. The Just War theory is not a doctrine. It is an enunciation of Catholic moral theology.

I ask again, does a Catholic have a right to conscientious objection or not if he chooses to obey to the letter of the law, Divine Law, "Thou shalt not kill." Yes, he has that right. Can he disobey that law for a greater good? Yes, in service to his country, in self-defense and even when he knows full well that the bombs he is dropping on the enemy are killing innocent civilians on the ground. That is a pretty big caveat and much more serious than what the pope said about the Zika virus and artificial contraception.

And make no mistake, if Pope Francis in his magisterium wants to extend exceptions to moral law, such as the 5th commandment and the Church's allowance through moral theology and a theory, he may do so. He's the pope.

Anonymous said...


"I ask again, does a Catholic have a right to conscientious objection or not if he chooses to obey to the letter of the law, Divine Law, "Thou shalt not kill." Yes, he has that right. Can he disobey that law for a greater good? Yes, in service to his country, in self-defense and even when he knows full well that the bombs he is dropping on the enemy are killing innocent civilians on the ground."

First of all, there is no “disobeying” of any commandment because the Church teaches that this commandment does not cover the exceptions that you outline. The Church can never permit her faithful to break any commandment. Additionally, the only reason you know of such exceptions are through catechisms and texts, which outline the traditional moral theology of the Catholic Church - the same texts, which do not permit any deviation from the absolute ban on the use of artificial contraception. You cannot make a consistent argument based on the very material that condemns your propositions vis-a-vis contraception.

"That is a pretty big caveat and much more serious than what the pope said about the Zika virus and artificial contraception."

It would only be considered a "caveat" and "much more serious" on the basis of a Protestant tabula rasa morality, in which the moral positions of the Church are evaluated based not on their continuity with professed truth, but on what makes sense to the secular world. For those who hold to the immutable truth of the Church, it is simply the beauty of the Church's teaching, for which we pray the grace to accept and teach.

"And make no mistake, if Pope Francis in his magisterium wants to extend exceptions to moral law, such as the 5th commandment and the Church's allowance through moral theology and a theory, he may do so. He's the pope."

Precisely because I will make no mistake, I will not accept moral deviation, even when the deviation attempts to come from the Roman Pontiff. If you choose to make that mistake, be prepared for accept further deviations on the 5th commandment, the 4th commandment, or any other commandment. When one does so, he is following man, not God, and professing the faith of an individual's proclivities, not the Roman Catholic Faith, outside of which there is no salvation.

Anonymous said...

" if Pope Francis in his magisterium wants to extend exceptions to moral law, such as the 5th commandment and the Church'"

What! Just because he is pope does not mean he can change or alter doctrine. He isn't a god. He is a bishop. A bishop who has to teach what the Church has always taught. He can't make stuff up. Are you serious? You really believe that because he is pope he can do these things? I'll tell you what if he keeps it up and tries to teach infallibly this stuff, he won't be pope any more because he can't change Truth.

Carol H. said...

Abstinence is an acceptable form of contraception. Why does everyone assume that contraception has to be by artificial means? Why does everyone assume that people are unable to control themselves? We are more than animals; we were made in the image of God.

George said...



The Church has called for the end of the use of the Death penalty, even though under certain circumstances it is permissible and allowable. Pope St.John Paul II on the Death penalty:

The state "ought not go to the extreme of executing the offender except in cases of absolute necessity: in other words, when it would not be possible otherwise to defend society. "It is clear that, for these purposes to be achieved, the nature and extent of the punishment must be carefully evaluated and decided upon, and ought not go to the extreme of executing the offender except in cases of absolute necessity: in other words, when it would not be possible otherwise to defend society."

St. Augustine, St. Thomas Aquinas, Cardinal Newman, and the Catholic tradition as a whole has accepted capital punishment. No saint or pope that I am aware of has ever put the Death penalty on the same moral plane as abortion.

If the Church in her teaching is so solicitous in even preserving the life of those guilty of heinous crimes, even more so is it incumbent on us to preserve the life of the innocent unborn.

Theological insight, when understood correctly in the light of Church teaching, will then not be taken as lending itself to rationalization or to anything which would have the effect of trivializing a very grave matter.

Yes, a mother with a quick moving cancer can during pregnancy choose chemotherapy even though it will indirectly cause a spontaneous abortion. It is necessary to consider any and all other medical options that are available though. It is also necessary to consider that the mother has lived her life while the unborn has not, and that if the mother is Catholic, she has recourse to the Sacraments including the Anointing of the Sick and if it comes to that, the Last Rites.

The problem today however is not the exceptional cases.

Anonymous said...

You wrote "if Pope Francis in his magisterium wants to extend exceptions to moral law..." So you are saying that if Pope Francis, just because he is pope, could make exceptions so that people could commit adultery? That is where your skewed "reasoning" leads. Father what you are saying just isn't sound Catholic theology. For goodness sake you are a priest. You really need to study the Faith more. Read the documents of the Council of Trent, read St. Agustine. Do something but please stop writing these posts that are just as unprepared and off the cuff as the statements that Francis makes. It's imprudent, causes confusion and could put people's souls in jeopardy. I suggest you really pray and study before you make some of these posts. Your idea that a pope is some god like oracle who can do whatever he wants is not Catholic either before or after Vatican II. It's just not.

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

in fact I believe in dysfunctional situations, like war, the church 's theory, and it is that, a theory, a moral theology, not a doctrine or dogma, allows for killing and even innocent collateral killing. Interesting no?

And I believe in concentration camps, people committed adultery with guards to save their and others lives. Yes, it happened.

And yes, I believe if a mother stole food to feed her dying children because she had nothing to give them, that this could be justified too in theory.

So, why are you cherry-picking theory in dysfunctional situations?

Anonymous said...

You are bending over backwards to find reasons to break commandments. Not to be uncharitable, and I sincerely mean that, but an old philosophy professor taught us to not waste energy trying to rationalize with someone who cannot reason properly. I'm going to pray for you and for the office of the papacy.

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

I am still waiting for you to tell me when the just wat theory, a part of moral theology in for dysfunctional situations, ever became a doctrine or dogma. It hasn't. It is a pious opinion wo support pastoral predicaments in the face of dysfunctional and untenable situation. Stop cherry-picking your exceptions to the divine law in this regard.

Anonymous said...

"So, why are you cherry-picking theory in dysfunctional situations?"

We are not cherry-picking anything. As Catholics, we base our discussions of moral theology on the teaching of the Church, not whatever seems right at the present time. Again, we don't operate on a Protestant tabula rasa morality, which pretends that there is no authoritative precedent in moral theology, but on unchangeable Catholic truth. You may disagree, you may dissent, but you may not reasonably characterize our Catholic Faith as cherry-picking because we stand on the precedent of 2,000 years of Tradition (the Tradition that you are expected to teach as a Catholic priest, btw).

"Stop cherry-picking your exceptions to the divine law in this regard."

There are "no exceptions to the divine law" - the exceptions explicated by the Church have always been taught to not be forbidden by the divine law, since the Church has no authority to excuse people from fulfilling the commandments of God. No such exceptions have ever been permitted for artificial contraception and to espouse those is to deviate from the Catholic Faith.

Anonymous said...

"I am still waiting for you to tell me when the just wat theory, a part of moral theology in for dysfunctional situations, ever became a doctrine or dogma."

The just war theory is a teaching of the ordinary universal magisterium of the Church, and as such, is a teaching/doctrine of the Catholic Faith. The ordinary universal magisterium of the Church is not able to permit widespread deviation from the divine law under the guise of a possibly wrong "theory" since the indefectibility of the Church would not permit universal error spread throughout the Church and her episcopal leadership.

ellen said...

The Catechism of the Catholic Church 2309 gives "the traditional elements ... in what is called the Just War doctrine". Note that it does refer to "doctrine". It is permitted, according to Catholic teaching, for innocent people to be killed as long as their deaths are not directly intended. My understanding is that one could not intentionally kill one innocent person even if by so doing one could save a thousand lives. It is never licit to do something which is intrinsically evil. You are a good priest, this is your opportunity to clarify the Church's teaching in your own mind. I am sure you don't want souls to be lost because you mistakenly say something is not evil when it is. Unfortunately, Pope Francis seems quite confused about a lot of Church teaching.

Fr. Michael J. Kavanaugh said...


"in fact I believe in dysfunctional situations, like war, the church 's theory, and it is that, a theory, a moral theology, not a doctrine or dogma, allows for killing and even innocent collateral killing. Interesting no?"

WHAT on God's green earth does this gibberish mean?

The Church NEVER accepts the killing of npn-combatants. Never.

"Collateral damage" is one of the most evil phrases we ever invented.

Kneeling Catholic said...

"These positions are not in any way new. They have always formed part of Catholic moral theology and belong to the treasury of the Church’s heritage in health-care ethics."

Father, I am afraid this statement is false. Francis is the is the first pope to recommend the pill as a means to reduce the number of defectives. Hence he is the first pope to recommend eugenics. :-(

Anonymous said...

Well, here is something that should be rigid---as it rigidly wrong: There was an article in the Atlanta paper about the difficulty of procuring abortions in Alabama---thankfully, it is hard to find a doctor who engages in that evil process. But more to the point of our dysfunctional society, there was a picture of an Air Force veteran in "post-abortion" procedure I guess you could say---accompanied by her (unidentified) boyfriend. Yes, her boyfriend, not her husband. She said she would have been in "absolute poverty" if she had a child at this point...hello? earth to Mars? Perhaps, madam, you should not have been engaged in activity that put you at risk of having a child if you were not so ready? Perhaps you were not aware that it is long-term, traditional Christian dogma that engaging in sexual relations with anyone outside of marriage is a sin? Oh, but who am I to judge, right? After all, courts have long struck laws that put any restraints on what previously was viewed as sinful behavior. We can "thanks" persons such as the supposedly Catholic Anthony Kennedy of the US Supreme Court for the new ethos of thinking---you know, the same Kennedy whom last summer found that the Constitution provides for same-sex marriage. You know, the Constitution is a "living, breathing" document that "evolves" with the times....

Anonymous said...

Does Catholic moral teaching allow for the use of artificial contraception specifically to prevent the conception of disabled children?

Steven

Anonymous said...

"Does Catholic moral teaching allow for the use of artificial contraception specifically to prevent the conception of disabled children?"

Certainly not. Those who say otherwise are lying to you and wanting you to spiritually subsidize their moral deviation.

Jusadbellum said...

I agree with Fr. K.

Collateral damage is not a theological (or ethical) term. It's related to stuff that is inadvertently damaged from say, artillery.

One can not specifically target the innocent so as to get at some unjust aggressor because people cannot be reduced to means to an end.

On the other hand, if one's intent - and as far as humanly possible, one is ignorant of the presence of innocents - is to stop an unjust aggressor, like a sniper shooting from a building.... and in the pursuit of this end your counter-fire results in the death of innocent life, that is not murder but it's still unintentional homicide.

Friendly fire is still deadly.

Bombing a military target 'qua' military target, is not the same thing as intentionally targeting a civilian target 'qua' civilian target.

The Jewish IDF shooting a terrorist is not the moral equivalent of a terrorist blowing up a Jewish wedding or Pizza parlor.

The military has been moving AWAY from indiscriminate weapons for 50 years. Flame throwers, napalm, 'carpet bombing', fire-bombing, chemical and biological weapons - they have all been banned from the US arsenal for this purpose: they are indiscriminate weapons.

On the other hand, other modern weaponry are more and more discriminating - accurate and small. Even our nuclear warheads' yields are (so far as we know) of lower strength: 500 KT vs. the megaton city destroyers of the cold war.

The Chinese and Russians keep megaton nukes in their arsenals, and whereas most American cities are made of highly combustible materials, their cities are mostly made of concrete and steel..... their military doctrine calls for both massed artillery strikes and the tactical use of nuclear weapons.

But we're the bad guys?