The recently published Ethics of Using Contraceptives – Promoting Good Health & Good Conscience by the Wijngaards Institute for Catholic Research, which calls for an end to the Church’s ban on artificial contraceptives for family planning, has been sharply criticised by the professor emeritus of moral theology at St Patrick’s College Maynooth.
In terms of theology, Wijngaards Statement is out of date, since “it is based on a purely biological or physicalist understanding of sexuality that has long been surpassed,” Dr Vincent Twomey SVD told CatholicIreland.net.
The arguments derive from the 1960s; they have long been refuted by the superior scholarship of theologians like Janet E. Smith, not to mention the teaching of St John Paul II, said the author of Moral Theology after Humanae Vitae.
Dr Twomey said the statement also ignored the fact that Natural Family Planning has been greatly perfected in recent years, and that the “enormously enriching experience of couples who use it confirms the truth of Pope Paul II’s prophetic teaching”.
In addition, it overlooked “the devastation caused by the widespread rejection of the Church’s teaching” (in terms of sexual permissiveness, breakdown of marriages, and increase in abortion).
‘The Ethics of Using Contraceptives – Promoting Good Health & Good Conscience’ was accompanied by a scholars’ statement endorsed by over one hundred prominent Catholic academics including former President Mary McAleese.
A further seven Irish academics signed the Wijngaards Statement, including Professor Gabriel Daly OSA, from the Irish School of Ecumenics, Trinity College, Dublin; Kiltegan priest, Dr Donal Dorr and Dr Gina Menzies lecturer in medical ethics at the Royal College of Surgeons in Dublin.
The document says that neither the Bible nor the biological laws regulating human reproduction offer any evidence that sexual intercourse must be open on all occasions to procreation.
“We are calling for a ‘development of doctrine’ to update the received teaching on contraception so as to make it compatible with current scientific and theological knowledge.”
A day after the Wijngaards Statement was released 500 Catholic scholars, including Dr Twomey, signed an Affirmation of the Church’s Teaching on the Gift of Sexuality, defending the Church’s teaching on artificial contraception.
Dr Twomey told CatholicIreland.net that only recently Pope Francis endorsed the teaching of Humanae Vitae in his Apostolic Exhortation, Amoris Laetitia, where it is quoted with approval five times.
“What is most disturbing is that the Wijngaards Statement was launched at the UNFPA (the United Nations Population Fund) which advocates widespread contraception and ‘safe’ abortion world wide.”
The Affirmation of the Church’s Teaching on the Gift of Sexuality was signed by other Irish academics including Professor of Theology,William A. Thomas at Newman College and Geraldine McSweeney, International President of The International Catholic Committee of Nurses and Medico-Social Assistants (CICIAMS).
In the affirmation, Humanae Vitae is described as ‘Prophetic’.
“Humanae Vitae was prophetic when it listed some of the harms that would result from the widespread use of contraception. Abundant studies show that contraception, such as hormonal contraceptives and intrauterine devices, can cause serious health problems for women.”
“The widespread use of contraception appears to have contributed greatly to the increase of sex outside of marriage, to an increase of unwed pregnancies, abortion, single parenthood, cohabitation, divorce, poverty, the exploitation of women, to declining marriage rates as well as to declining population growth in many parts of the world,” it says.
It concludes: “We hold that the Church’s teaching on contraception is true and defensible on the basis of Scripture and reason. We hold that Catholic teaching respects the true dignity of the human person and is conducive to happiness.”