Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Fr. John C. Ford, S.J. And Gaudium Et Spes

Fr. John Cuthbert Ford, S.J.
The Role of  Fr. John C. Ford, S.J. and Germain Grisez 
in Helping Pope Paul VI Write Humanae Vitae 4

Father Ford and Germain Grisez had been friends since 1964, when Grisez wrote his first book, Contraception and the Natural Law. Grisez sent the manuscript to Father Ford, who made good suggestions for strengthening the work, and Grisez then sent it to the Bruce Publishing Company in Milwaukee where I was at that time working as an editor.

Pope Paul VI early in 1964 directed that bishops around the world prepare a confidential inquiry about developments regarding contraception in their territories, and about their own views. Cardinal Patrick A. O’Boyle of Washington, D.C., then president of the U.S. bishops’ conference, asked Ford to help prepare the report for the United States. On June 6 Ford, acting with O’Boyle’s authority, had the first of several private audiences with Paul VI. Paul was certain of the truth of the Church’s teaching on contraception and was also encouraged by the response he received from bishops throughout the world affirming that teaching.

But some advisers had suggested to him that Janssens’ claim that the new anovulant pill was not truly contraceptive because it did not interfere with the physical performance of the marital act might be true. As I noted earlier, there was only one magisterial statement on this matter, Pius XII’s in the final address of his pontificate in September 1958, a month before he died. Paul VI thus thought that a thorough study was needed to make sure that the Church would not ask more of faithful Catholic married couples than God did. He also thought that the Council was not the place to consider this matter and he therefore decided to enlarge the Papal Commission for the study on population, family, and births. He did this on June 23, 1964, but did not spell out his mandate although he called attention to Pius XII’s judgment.

In October, Paul VI appointed Ford to this Commission. Grisez congratulated him, and over the following months the two had telephone conversations about developments. But Ford, respecting the confidentiality of the Commission’s proceedings, did not share any of its documents or discuss his own work.

But John R. Cavanagh, a Washington, D.C. psychiatrist also appointed to the Commission, was less concerned about confidentiality. In the summer of 1965 he discussed the Commission’s initial meeting at length with Grisez and others, and shared the official English translation of the Report on the Fourth Session of the Commission Set Up by the Holy See to Study the Problems of Population, Family, and Birth-rate with Grisez. After studying it, Grisez called Ford, and the two then freely discussed the Commission’s work.

De Riedmatten, the Commission’s Secretary General, skillfully managed the opening meeting of the enlarged Commission. He invited John T. Noonan, Jr., whose soon-to-be published book was a massive argument for the view that the teaching could change, to summarize his thesis favoring change. Instead of focusing on the question of the birth control pill or even on the truth of the Church’s constant and firm teaching, de Riedmatten urged that the Commission decide whether the teaching was “reformable” or “irreformable.” Twelve of the nineteen members of the theological section thought it could be changed. The other members of the Commission—physicians, demographers and sociologists, married couples, and pastoral workers—sat in on almost all the discussions of the theological section. Cavanagh said that as a result he and other non-theologians on the Committee began to think, for the first time in their lives, that the Church might approve using contraceptives.

Ford was surprised to find the theologians so predisposed to change. In discussing Noonan’s book with Grisez, Ford raised questions about its historical accuracy, and Grisez’s research greatly impressed Ford who tried but failed to get Grisez appointed to the Pontifical Commission. Ford when in the US lived in the Jesuit residence near the Catholic University, where he had been teaching and had resigned his professorship to work at the Council. Grisez often visited him at his residence and helped him prepare to see Pope Paul again.

Early in November Ford requested an audience with the Pope and was soon called to Rome. The section on marriage in the penultimate draft of Vatican II’s The Church in the Modern World (Gaudium et Spes) was not clear about contraception. Because he wanted the Council to reaffirm the teaching of Casti Connubii, Pope Paul put Bishop Carlo Colombo, his personal theological advisor, to work drafting amendments. On November 22, the Pope, having called Ford in for a private audience, asked him to work with Colombo and told him to return the next day with the draft amendments.

When Ford returned, Paul VI told him not to leave Rome as he had planned. Ford and some of the other theologians from the Commission were appointed theological advisors to the conciliar subcommission that would deal with the amendments. The subcommission did not welcome the Pope’s initiative. Wishing to avoid open conflict as the Council drew to a close, Paul VI allowed the subcommission to revise the amendments. The result was that the Council left “certain issues” about the morality of contraception to be resolved after the Commission on Population, Family, and Birth-rate completed its work. But at the Pope’s insistence, the celebrated footnote 14 in paragraph 51 was included in the final text of Gaudium et Spes; as I showed above, a careful reading of the text of GS, 51 and footnote 14 leads to the conclusion that the Council, which ended in December, 1967, taught that contraception is a gravely immoral act.
Link (here) to Christendom-Awake

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