Letter #21, 2017: Is Pleasure Supreme?

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May 17, 2017, Wednesday

Is Pope Francis planning to re-examine the Church’s teaching on contraception?

Rumors have been circulating in Rome for several days, since a May 11 blog post by veteran Italian Vaticanist Marco Tosatti, that Francis is seriously considering setting up a commission to study Humanae Vitae, the 1968 papal document of Pope Paul VI, which condemned the use of artificial means of contraception.

The post is entitled “Humanae Vitae: Rumors of a Vatican Study Commission to Examine the Encyclical of Paul VI” (in Italian: “Humanae Vitae: Voci su una commissione di studio Vaticana per esaminare l’enciclica di Paolo VI”).

Here is a link to that article: link.

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Then, on May 15, a German article appeared on the internet based on Tosatti’s article.

The German article, written by Giuseppe Nardi, is entitled “Hat Papst Franziskus ‘Geheimkommission’ zur Revision von Humanae vitae eingesetzt?” (“Has Pope Francis Established a ‘Secret Commission’ to Review [Revise] ‘Humanae Vitae‘?”).

This German report is entirely based on Tosatti’s report, adding no new evidence to support Tosatti’s report.

However, the German report is much longer than Tosatti’s report, going into some detail about the issues surrounding the 1968 publication of Humanae Vitae and the battle over its acceptance (or rejection) in the decades since, including the basic question of the morality or immorality of contraception.

The German article may be found here: link.

Then today, May 17, Maike Hickson of the website onepeterfive.com published an article based on Tosatti’s report entitled “Marco Tosatti on the Pope’s Secret Plans to Potentially Modify Humanae Vitae.”

Hickson writes: “As of today, Marco Tosatti still has not yet received either an official denial or a confirmation of the story from the Vatican.”

But she then adds: “In our own research, we have been able to confirm the story. A well-informed source in Rome has confirmed Tosatti’s account without however being able to give specific names of the members of that commission.”

Here is a link to her report, in English: link.

So, as of now, Tosatti’s report has not been officially confirmed.

Tosatti, in fact, in his original piece, tells us that his requests to various Vatican offices for either a confirmation or denial of the report have not met with any response.

So there is no certainty that his report is accurate.

However, Tosatti has been a Vatican reporter since the 1980s and enjoys relations of trust with a number of usually well-informed sources in the Roman Curia.

And Hickson is saying that she has been “able to confirm” the report with her own Vatican sources.

Therefore, when Tosatti writes that his sources have told him that the Pope is thinking of establishing such a commission, and when he decides to publish this information, and when Hickson repeats the story and says it has been “confirmed,” it seems at least worth noting.

The fact that his report has already been picked up in Germany and now in the United States means that it is already a matter that is being discussed and debated in several countries.

We will make every effort to confirm or deny this report, and one of our editors at Inside the Vatican, Christina Deardurff, a Catholic scholar educated at the prestigious Thomas Aquinas College in California and the mother of several children, will be preparing a complete report on the question for our June-July issue of Inside the Vatican magazine.

(To subscribe to the magazine, go here: link.)

“Pleasure, especially sexual pleasure, seems to be regarded as an ultimate, unmitigated good in our society,” Deardurff says.

“Indeed, we seem willing to use any means to remove any obstacle to our experience of such pleasure.

“Entire industries have arisen in support of this longing for pleasure: pharmaceutical companies which earn billions by manufacturing birth control pills which cripple the natural functioning of the body and cause pathologies like cancer and heart disease; the ‘adult entertainment’ industry, which exists to stoke the fires of our lust so we can, supposedly, enjoy even more pleasure than would be possible with actual mates; and the abortion industry, which crowns the whole by actually killing off our offspring so we can go on to live, and seek more pleasure, another day…

“All of this has as its engine the pursuit of physical pleasure, and it seems that our society cannot conceive of a higher good. People work ‘to have fun’ and they believe that is what makes life worth living, because ‘you only go around once.’

“And yet the profound joys unrelated to physical pleasure, the joy of gazing into the eyes of an infant, or of caring for an aged parent, the joys of a love which is not eros but agape, are forgotten.

“Pleasure is not supreme,” Deardurff concludes. “There is something more profound, and this ‘more profound’ is at the heart of the Christian message.”

Pilgrimages

If you would like to travel with me with Inside the Vatican to Russia, Ukraine and Rome in mid-July on our 4th Annual Urbi et Orbi Foundation Pilgrimage, please email pilgrimages@insidethevatican.com.

If you would like to make a very special journey with us to England in the footsteps of St. Thomas More at the end of June, please write to pilgrimages@insidethevatican.com for more information.

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What is the glory of God?

“The glory of God is man alive; but the life of man is the vision of God.” —St. Irenaeus of Lyons, in the territory of France, in his great work Against All Heresies, written c. 180 A.D.

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