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January 2000

Review Article

FAITHFUL FOR LIFE: The Autobiography of Father Paul Marx, OSB, Human Life International, 1997, pp.367 (available through HLI, PO Box 4771, London SE9 4XA.)

MICHAEL McGRADE

"In every generation there must be some fool

who will speak the truth as he sees it."

Pasternak

Last September, during their heated scrap with The Wanderer over the allegedly 'forced' retirement of their President Father Paul Marx and the future direction of their organisation without him, the new Human Life International hierarchy stated quite rightly that "HLI owes much to Fr. Marx, but is much more than Fr. Marx", that "HLI belongs to no man…[but] solely to God." Nonetheless, just as the spirit and atmosphere of a monastery invariably reflects, for better or worse, the personality of its Abbot, Human Life International is surely the embodiment of its Benedictine founder. Fearless, combative, tireless, all-action… one could just as easily be describing the man as HLI itself. Fr. Marx naturally projected his own character onto the organisation and that imprint, I believe, is what has always marked HLI out from the rest and why it has become the pre-eminent pro-life force it is today: because, up to this point and whatever its shortcomings, it has remained with its founder unashamedly, uncompromisingly, militantly Catholic. It has not only kept the Faith but resolutely declined to hide it under a bushel.

The Big Picture
Most importantly and famously in this regard, while just about every other pro-life group around has ignored or downplayed the issue of contraception, HLI has refused to sacrifice the Church's infallible teaching on this pivotal matter in favour of a spurious ecumenism or a self-defeating realpolitik. On the contrary, it has joyfully embraced the Church's teaching as summed up in Humanae Vitae and made both it and the associated promotion of Natural Family Planning central to its stand for life. It is, therefore, a theme that recurs throughout this exhilarating autobiography, wherein we discover that Fr. Marx learnt about the consequences of contraceptive dissent early on when in 1968 his older brother Joseph (Father Michael, also a Benedictine monk), joined Father Charles Curran in officially dissenting from Humanae Vitae. As if reflecting the de-facto schism in the Church that has torn parishes, families and friends asunder for thirty years, Fr. Marx recalls that right up to his brother's death in 1993, Humanae Vitae was a subject "Father Michael and I could hardly ever discuss; he persisted in his false view to the end." Thus, from his brother and several other Benedictine dissenters who attacked the encyclical with their Abbot's permission, he explains:

"I learned from what flimsy grounds and inexperience this sad dissent stemmed. To militantly reject Humane Vitae is really to reject the Church's moral authority, and such rejection, I have noticed, colours a priest's whole theological outlook and performance. In the first twenty-five years of my priesthood, whenever I met a priest for the first time I could sense an immediate rapport, because we were in total theological agreement. Today the same kinship is felt only when one learns that the newly met priest accepts Humanae Vitae."

This doubtless explains why, instead of being feted by his fellow Benedictine Basil Hume on a rare visit to London a few years ago, it was left to a pro-Humanae Vitae parish priest to host a talk by Fr. Marx instead. I recall thinking after his address that restricting this world-renowned and inspirational Catholic figure to such a tiny forum in a London suburb, especially when the Cardinal publicly feted Humanae Vitae dissenters like Jack Dominian and the Tablet, was a studied insult that said absolutely everything about the abject state of the Church at home and abroad.

It is sobering to read, however, that even the great man himself momentarily wavered when Humanae Vitae was issued on 25 July 1968: "I did not sleep that night. After having tried to help so many couples with the then-available methods of NFP, I yielded to my doubts about the encyclical; I took the dissenting theologians too seriously; I even sponsored some of them. But before long I saw the consequences of contraception and how far they would extend - that contraception, with its abortifacient tentacles, was already devastating Church and society." He now laments that "no more than approximately five per cent of American Catholic couples practice natural birth regulation." And I'm sure he speaks for all of us in repeatedly expressing his astonishment "that priests and bishops - given the dimensions and ramifications of the birth-control problem - have done so pitifully little to recommend and promote NFP. I have been waiting for our bishops to write a national pastoral addressing chastity in and out of marriage; certainly NFP, and loving abstinence where necessary, would be a part of this pastoral." The reason why we will continue to wait in vain for such truly Catholic direction becomes clear when Father summarises his attendance at the 1980 Synod on the Family in Rome, where he recalls his surprise at the number of bishops (Quinn, Hume, Hurley et. al.) who asked for a re-evaluation of Humanae Vitae and the giving of Communion to divorced and remarried Catholics. Following our reprint of Cardinal Hume's intervention at the 1980 Synod in the November 1998 Christian Order, I received a letter from Fr Marx confirming how shocked he had been by the Cardinal's statement at the time. In any event, it certainly explains the catastrophic lack of episcopal interest in contraception and NFP in the developed West.

"It is perhaps even more remarkable, to say it again," writes Fr. Marx, "that so many Catholic bishops and priests and laity to this day do not recognise sinful birth control as a basic cause of marital/sexual infidelity, divorce, family destruction, fornication, the emptying of seminaries and religious orders, etc., etc., etc. And I will keep saying, with Father John Hardon, that a right-to-life movement that does not oppose contraception and abortifacients will never win the battle for the protection of the unborn." British and Irish pro-lifers take note.

HLI Bashing
This book, then, is testimony to HLI's almost unique ability among pro-life endeavours to see the big picture; to make the links and connections between apparently disparate developments like the culture of death and the rise of lukewarm and apostate bishops. In other words, it has never sought to divorce the pro-life movement and the abortion holocaust from the Catholic crisis. HLI works closely with all bishops of good will but, by and large, hasn't sold out in familiar, parochial pro-life fashion by cuddling up with Modernist prelates in exchange for valuable patronage and episcopally approved annual appeals in the parishes. Like its founder, it hasn't cribbed; hasn't been half-hearted or mealy-mouthed but stood firm and taken all the bile dished out by the death dealers and their ecclesiastical 'useful idiots' (how else to describe Humanae Vitae-dissenting clerics?).

In contrast to its work in countries like Poland, whose bishops "are totally supportive of what we do", Fr. Marx outlines the difficulties HLI has met within the episcopate for this "total approach to the life issues by working against contraception, sterilization, abortion, euthanasia and explicit sex education, while promoting chastity, natural family planning, homeschooling, theological orthodoxy and serious preparation for marriage." This strategy was bound to rouse opposition and Christian Order, for one, can identify wholeheartedly with Fr. Marx's comment that while HLI has been the subject of relatively few "rational complaints", it has sometimes been falsely accused of "bishop-bashing and of being divisive, anti-woman, anti-Semitic, anti-Muslim, racially prejudiced, and self-righteous."

As with just about everything else in this book, readers will find Marx's typically candid handling of these accusations of great interest. The section on alleged 'bishop-bashing' notes that speaking out strongly against "proven religious irregularities" in defence of the Faith is not bishop-bashing but "legitimate reporting" since: "There is nothing in the teaching of the Catholic Church that says its adherents must be blind and mindless, following any leader at any price." Father adds: "To say and do nothing while the faithful are mislead by obvious infractions and toleration of false-teachings is highly irresponsible." He also points out that nowadays it is not so much a question of bishops being 'bashed' by others but (at least in countries less episcopally conformist than Britain and Ireland) of bishops bashing each other! More and more orthodox prelates in the U.S. have now reached breaking point with their insufferably Modernist brethren, resulting in the likes of Cardinal O'Connor bashing Archbishop Quinn for his criticism of the exercise of papal authority within the Church and the role of collegiality (during Quinn's widely publicised lecture at Campion Hall, Oxford, in June 1996). And when a number of American prelates took public exception to Cardinal Bernadin's Common Ground Project, speaking out against its "inconsistencies and ideological bias", Fr Marx wrote to his former classmate Cardinal Hickey on 21 August 1996: "Alas! I never thought I would see the day when Cardinals (you and Cardinal Law) would 'bishop bash' cardinals! (We secretly feel vindicated since we have pointed out these and other abuses for decades!)".

The section dealing with false accusations against HLI on its commendable stand against explicit sex-education is particularly interesting in view of a disturbing trend in this vital area which, ironically, both HLI's English branch and SPUC are now promoting despite protests by many Catholic parents.

To read Fr Marx's account of the way in which the US episcopate developed and pushed through its 1990 sex-ed guidelines Human Sexuality: A Catholic Perspective for Education and Lifelong Learning, a document "composed in secrecy by an unnamed committee, and with virtually no parental input", is like re-reading the furtive way in which Bishop David Konstant's egregious Education in Sexuality guidelines came about in this country [see November 1997 CO]. With a heavy sense of déjà vu, we discover that the US document "ignores the latency period of child development, flagrantly disregards parental rights, wavers on the need for moral/spiritual formation, and presents a fatally confused and muddled concept of human sexuality with "New Age" overtones, and so on."

Later, inevitably, several of the committee members responsible for the guidelines were found to be renowned Humanae Vitae dissenters.

Commenting on the fact that orthodox bishops at the 1990 meeting which approved the guidelines were denied access to the confidential list of the committee members (as were HLI) and not even given time to read the document before voting on it, Marx asks the same question orthodox Catholics the world over have asked themselves in similar situations: "Why the rush to push through an inherently controversial document, potentially fraught with the most serious consequences and kept out of sight for two and one-half years, with, again, almost no input from parents whose basic right and duty not the bishops' - is to educate and form their children in chastity?"

This is a very unsettling question which, I suggest, points to answers of the darkest possible hue involving systemic clerical sexual misconduct, perversion and sexual abuse of minors, the latest investigations and shocking revelations of which involve Bishop Ryan of Springfield, Illinois, (who recently resigned) and other priests in his diocese as well as bishops and many clergy in the surrounding dioceses of Belleville, Jolliet and Kansas - to name but one regional 'network'. When we consider the secretive methods and dissident sources used in developing the same insidious sex-ed guidelines in this part of the world, who would dare argue that similar diabolic forces may not be at work at the highest levels of the dissenting British and Irish Churches?

It is hardly surprising to learn that the bishop-chairman of the US sex-ed committee "revealed in a news conference that he was not familiar with the pivotal document quoted by virtually every Pope since 1929, Pope Pius XI's Divini Illius Magistri - a monumental document on Catholic education that includes an insightful section on sex education." [For a relevant extract from this encyclical see February 1999 CO]. This is typical of the unconscionable negligence on the part of our Shepherds which over several decades has cost countless young souls their innocence and Faith.

Unexpurgated Version
HLI's efforts to alert American bishops and priests to the dangers of explicit and dissident sex-ed programs and the need for "strong episcopal leadership for life" has seen some of those bishops complain to the Pontifical Council for the Family [PCF] and its President, Cardinal Lopez Trujillo. Far more interesting and educational than the cursory treatment of this matter presented in the book, however, is the original manuscript for this section on "Sex Education" which was fully intended for publication but, much to Fr. Marx's disappointment, could not be accommodated in the final production. This unpublished material, forwarded to me by the author for use 'as and when', includes some scorching exchanges between Fr. Marx and various bishops.

One of these was Archbishop Daniel Kucera of Dubuque, his old classmate and friend, who had given his imprimatur to the altogether shocking, un-Catholic, pornographic New Creation series that Rome condemned out of hand and about which the Holy Father himself voiced displeasure. In his response of 6 September 1991, Kucera totally ignored the issues raised in both Fr. Marx's letter and the detailed critique of New Creation which he had forwarded with it, preferring to accuse Marx of concocting statistics, dissembling and being guilty of the "terrible sin" of "spiritual pride"! (This from a bishop who had tolerated the chief dissenter to Humanae Vitae, Fr. Charles Curran, at the Catholic University of America for 18 years!) With typically dry humour, Marx responded: "You say that I am guilty of spiritual pride (something I've always known)." Pointing out that Kucera had not addressed a single point at issue, Marx wrote: "allow me to mention just one. How could you give your imprimatur to a document which contains a total dissent to Humanae Vitae and which includes in the bibliography the worst of pornographic sex educators like Sol Gordon and the pagan Wardell Pomeroy? I can only conclude that you had not read the document before you gave your imprimatur - but if so, why don't you admit it? Think about it." A very detailed letter followed in which Fr Marx, presenting further evidence in support of earlier claims, effectively informed the Archbishop that his archdiocese, like all the rest, was now a Humanae Vitae-free zone.

However, it was when HLI very politely and correctly corresponded with Cardinal Hickey of Washington about the contents of the dire TeenSTAR programme he was sponsoring in his archdiocese that "the swift hammer of episcopal authority landed, delivered by Cardinal Alfonso Lopez Trujillo, President of the Pontifical Council for the Family, to whom Cardinal Hickey had complained, rather than to us." This whole episode is highly instructive for very many reasons, not least because it confirms in spectacular fashion the long held view that orthodox elements in Rome not only do not know who their true friends are but that human respect too often (and far too easily) colours and distorts their judgement and view of reality in the Catholic trenches - and that's putting it politely!

Cardinal Trujillo's first letter to Fr. Marx of 18 December, 1993, states that the PCF "fully supports Cardinal Hickey's judgement in this [TeenSTAR] matter. He is, in fact, a Member of the Pontifical Committee of this Pontifical Council." He urges Fr. Marx to contact the "interested bishop and respectfully request…the necessary clarifications" if he ever has "any problems". But as Fr. Marx comments on this letter: "we had brought our concerns to the proper local episcopal authority - who responded to our concerns by writing to Rome to complain. So TeenSTAR, according to Cardinal Lopez Trujillo, was a good programme because Cardinal Hickey approved it, and because he was a member of the Pontifical Council of the Family. Philosophy professors insist that the weakest argument is that of authority."

Later, the editors of the Washington Times found excerpts from TeenSTAR (which is publicly supported in Britain by the pro-Evolution FAITH Movement) so objectionable and pornographic that they actually censored parts of an advertisement submitted by a group seeking to alert parents in Archdiocese of Washington to its dangers. As Father Marx notes: "It seems safe to say that the many parents who complained about their daughters' being instructed to monitor their cervical mucus after menarche (onset of menstruation) and their adolescent boys' being told to record their sexual arousals were indeed right, as this editor of a large secular metropolitan newspaper found as well."

Fr. Marx replied to Cardinal Trujillo on 3 January 1994, denying Cardinal Hickey's charge that HLI was "largely responsible" for TeenSTAR being "under attack." It had been evaluated, he wrote, like five other programmes widely used in the US, "by six highly qualified persons, including theologians - all of whom have had wide, practical experience on the subject." He went on, echoing the same frustration with Cardinal Trujillo and his Council that parents at the forefront of the sex-ed battle here and elsewhere have experienced:

Through the years I have learned - sometimes painfully - that good, experienced parents are the best judges of sex ed programs, not celibate religious or priests. The chief complaint about TeenSTAR: too explicit; too much, too soon; too little moral content and spiritual emphasis.

You say, "If you have any problems, write to me, or else, before writing here, you may write to the interested bishop and respectfully request, in a spirit of dialogue, the necessary clarifications." Good advice indeed, and I accept it gratefully, but we have written to you on various matters several times without a response. So too with bishops in this country, for years. Let me frankly say that if I had to wait for bishops to advise me 30 plus years ago, I would never have gotten into the pro-life movement and there would be no HLI, no extended offices in Ottawa, Miami (working exclusively in Latin America as you know), Manila, Nigeria's Ijebu Ode and Poland's Gdansk, 80 branches in 50 countries and a total of 80 paid employees - to say nothing of many volunteers.

In 1963, during Vatican II, St. Cloud's Bp. Peter Bartholomew - then head of the Family Life Bureau of the National Catholic Welfare Conference, now NCCB - asked my superior, Abbot Baldwin Dworschak, to stop me from promoting/teaching NFP. Thank God my superior knew better and "stood him to the face."

With Humanae Vitae, NFP more or less died in the USA. I did 9 international symposia and many weekend conferences on NFP in various parts of the USA. No bishop encouraged me. I met a bishop once who admitted he had not read Humanae Vitae. Meanwhile, for 18 years the rebel-theologian and father of dissent to Humanae Vitae in the USA, Fr. Charles Curran, taught 6 major moral errors at the bishops' Catholic University of America, until the Holy See took the bull by the horns. But I am grateful to Cdl. Gagnon (whom I met in 1974 at the first World Population Conference in Bucharest), Cdls. Loudisamy (1970s), Tomko (1980s) and the Pope since 1979 for their support. More in my forthcoming autobiography.

I hope we know each other well enough for me to say that I'm a bit disconcerted that you would fully approve TeenSTAR without perhaps/most likely having examined the total program. And so we now request that your Committee evaluate the TeenSTAR program in its entirety, including our critique, for our benefit and enlightenment. We have received very many complaints about it from the best of informed Catholics………

Fr Marx is quick to praise Cardinal Trujillo's work for life, his stands in Latin America against liberation theology and the fact that he has "bravely and totally condemned value-free, biological sex education in Latin America." He also points out the considerable work HLI has carried out for the PCF in organising conferences and gathering evidence that the practice of contraception does indeed lead to abortion. And yet, despite the Cardinal's orthodox credentials and HLI's tireless work for the Vatican and co-operation with the PCF at all times, on 5 October, 1995, like naughty little boys, Father Matthew Habiger, OSB, and Fr Marx were "called in before the whole Pontifical Council staff to receive the following, read to us":

Prot. N. 55/95

Dear Reverend Fathers

In the recent meeting of the Committee of the Presidency of the Council a considerable amount of time was dedicated to Human Life International.

The Bishops of the Committee appreciate the desire of HLI to defend the dignity of human life and promote the truth about human life and sexuality. You have experienced a remarkable growth in membership and on many occasions you have expressed a desire to teach and act in close union with the Holy See.

In view of these positive goals, the Bishops of the Committee were alarmed that you compromise your purpose by your negative relationship with the Bishops of the United States and your attacks on other pro-life movements. The Bishops considered scandalous your attacks on Cardinal Roger Mahoney and your appeals for money to "educate bishops"; these appeals are couched in terms that call into question your competence and good will.

At the same time, your attacks against Sister Miriam Paul (Hanna Klaus) and "Teen Star" continue, despite my request to cease such criticism of a program which has the support of her diocesan bishop. There seems evidence, also, that you have supported diocesan controversies without taking prior counsel with the appropriate local Ordinary. The Bishops of the Committee, hearing the evidence, could only conclude that your criticism of the American Bishops and of other pro-life movements is having an overall negative effect on the Church in you country. I include a copy of the prior letter of this Council addressed to you.

The Bishops of the Council unanimously urge you to abide by the directives of your local Ordinary, Cardinal James Hickey, who personally or through his delegates has urged peace and collaboration rather than harmful criticism. Such criticism hinders pro-life efforts rather than advancing them. Clearly, dear Fathers, your full compliance with our request, that you cease these harmful tactics, must be a consideration of future support given you by this Pontifical Council.

If we were not already so familiar with Roman treachery in matters of Modernist episcopal appointments and apparent Curial indifference to the vile activities of wicked prelates, this extraordinary dressing down of their most loyal pro-life servants would shock us to the core. Indeed, if the full details of this scandalous reprimand had been widely known at the time, the outcry against Cardinal Trujillo, his Secretary Bishop Sgreccia and other PCF members like Mgr Peter Elliott (a TeenSTAR supporter) would have been something to behold. Their credibility would have plummeted to zilch in the eyes of outraged orthodox laity. Upon first reading it, my own thoughts immediately turned to a letter of reply that Cardinal Trujillo had recently sent to one of the most fervent supporters of his Truth and Meaning of Human Sexuality guidelines in England. In response to a dossier that this internationally respected opponent of classroom sex education had sent to him, which provided no more than factual information on a shockingly explicit sex-ed programme for primary school children sponsored by an Irish bishop, Cardinal Trujillo adopted an altogether peevish tone while taking a wide berth around the issue at hand, before finally admonishing this loyal supporter of his Pontifical Council to be "charitable" to the bishop concerned!

Needless to say, Fr. Marx responded to Cardinal Trujillo at length (six closely typed A4 pages). Extracts from this letter supplied in the autobiography [pp.279-84] are confined to HLI's remarkable record of achievement, which Father summarised for the Cardinal's benefit, and the quoting of a lengthy newspaper report of a 1995 conference in Rome at which participants called for leadership from bishops. What is missing, however, is a significant portion of the letter following Fr. Marx's humble acceptance of the PCF 'reprimand', in which he refutes the outrageous accusations the Cardinal made against HLI. "I emphasize," he wrote, "that we have never attacked any pro-life group in the world; that we have never solicited money 'to educate' the American bishops; and that HLI has not consciously 'supported diocesan controversies without taking prior counsel with the appropriate local ordinary.' These accusations are so inaccurate and unjust that I respectfully and urgently request evidence." As for TeenSTAR, Father stated: "You speak of our continuing to attack Sr. Miriam Paul. We deny that. We have not sent our critique of her program to anyone in the archdiocese of Washington and environs once we learned to our dismay that Cdl. Hickey had approved TeenSTAR. We agree with her NFP work and have done so for years, having at times financed her NFP apostolate and even had her as a speaker at our seminars. We have not engaged in 'harmful criticism' of Cardinal Hickey's sex ed program, as charged….Only in the next life will Cdl. Hickey find out how we in the last ten years have defended him and other bishops, and fostered authentic pro-life work in his archdioceses and other dioceses." Some further extracts:

You speak of our criticizing the American bishops… May we show your communication to various American bishops? I frankly think they would be appalled. You used the word "attack" numerous times; to report what bishops do, say and write is not attacking but legitimate journalism in the U.S. … We cannot accept that most American bishops are against us.…Let me frankly say that very many, truly believing, loyal, educated American Catholics do not take many bishops seriously anymore - such is the condition of the Church in the U.S., with only 27% attending Mass regularly and with some 60% of Catholics under 40 no longer believing in the Real Presence. According to the U.S. Census, fifty-eight percent of Americans are sterilized, while around 90% of Catholics are practicing sinful birth control, often using abortifacients, if not neutered. In private correspondence and many conversations I have often defended bishops in difficult circumstances and against impatient laymen. The correspondence is available to you... You speak of my "negative relationship with the bishops of the U.S…" You must mean some bishops. You cannot mean those bishops who support us even financially. I'm tempted to think you base this observation on what a few prelates told or wrote you. (We're aware of who they are and what they said). Great, solid, loyal, thinking lay Catholics have serious questions about some prelates….I do not believe that Cdls Keeler and Mahony speak for the American hierarchy about us. And you needn't worry about our ever mentioning Cdl. Mahony again. I gave up on him months ago, as have very many American Catholics…(If you wish, we'll submit to you a confidential document on the L.A. Archdiocese and Mahony. You will then know the kind of churchman whose accusations against us you seem to take seriously). I hope you do not consider this 'bishop-bashing'. I'm only reporting what many faithful Catholics deplore…Cdl Trujillo and Bp. Sgreccia, your problem would seem to be with bishops…We do the Church's work, the bishops' work: still we are condemned!…..Why have the cardinals and bishops for years tolerated (and still do) the most outlandish writings of theologians on seminary and 'Catholic' university faculties? Of wild, radical feminist nuns and their attacks on Pope, orthodox bishops, priests and religious…. We know bishops who have ordained known homosexuals. Three U.S. bishops actually addressed a large pro-homosexual rally in Chicago - a rally called to attack Church teachings on homosexuality…..The annual Call to Action meetings attack the Pope, the hierarchy, the Catholic faith, etc., with bishops attending/participating in the wildest, really heretical Mass-liturgies. Do you wish to see their programs of meetings? We are befuddled that we should be 'attacked' when the cardinals allow all manner of dissident theologians and theology e.g. dissident Fr. Richard McBrien of Notre Dame University and Fr. Andrew Greeley. Greeley has called the bishops "bird brains", and worse, often. McBrien has repeatedly in his column ridiculed the bishops and Pope. It doesn't seem to bother cardinals and bishops when Abp. Weakland calls the Pope "a clown" and "a ham actor", etc., while we constantly defend the Pope… You mentioned Cdl. Law who shocked millions of Catholics by giving Communion to a very public Catholic sinner and who held up for many months the English translation of the Catholic Catechism by pleading for inclusive language, etc. In charity one must allow bishops and cardinals to make mistakes - even big ones - but is it too much to ask that they allow the same for HLI?

Summing up the hypocrisy of prelates like Keeler, Hickey and Mahony complaining to Rome about HLI given the sex-ed programs and lack of orthodoxy in their archdioceses, Fr. Marx comments in the unpublished manuscript: "Suffice it to say here that St. Thomas Aquinas noted that it 'serves the faith,' and 'is meritorious' to tell the truth publicly about prelates when there is 'danger to the faith'." On this foundational problem of weak and treacherous bishops, the abovementioned newspaper report quoted by Fr. Marx in his letter to Trujillo and reproduced in the book [pp. 281-84], provides stunning support for his own views and approach while effectively highlighting the 'clerical club' mentality that blinds the Curia and clearly hampers the effectiveness of Trujillo and his Council. The article appeared in the respected Canadian weekly The Alberta Report and concerned an October 1995 meeting in Rome, sponsored by the PCF itself, at which pro-life leaders repeatedly claimed that the main problem in their pro-life work was with priests and bishops. It read in part:

With the exception of the Italian working group, every final report contained biting criticism of the inertia and apathy of the national Catholic hierarchies in the developed countries. The English criticized their bishops' failures to excommunicate or even criticize pro-abortion Catholic politicians and medical workers. The French condemned the folly of permitting secularist dissent in Catholic-funded institutions. The Americans chided the failure to organize and energize the individual parishes in support of life….

"The bishops must institute a mechanism to educate and discipline the priests of their dioceses in the Church's teaching on life," barked the chairman of the German working group - only to be interrupted by 10 minutes of forceful, continuous applause from about 1,000 delegates. "Wait! Be Quiet! We have other things to say to our bishops!" he finally shouted, while a dozen clerics looked on, some surprised, some glum…

The Catholic laity's criticism of their ordained leaders received some support from evangelical activists. "The Catholic church has got to clean house," says evangelical pro-lifer Doug Scott…. "It's hard for us to work with a church that won't kick out politicians like Teddy Kennedy or Mario Cuomo - the guys who say they're 'personally opposed' but continue to support the killing of unborn infants."

Underlining the point that he had got things upside down and that the PCF's problem was with the bishops not HLI, Fr. Marx informed Cardinal Trujillo that Vancouver's Archbishop Adam Exner, who represented the Canadian bishops at the Rome meeting, asserted in the 23 October 1995 Western Catholic Reporter [Canada] that "in every nation pro-lifers want to see stronger leadership from clergy and bishops on life issues. They are really begging for that leadership."

Father Marx smoothed things over with Cardinal Hickey but commented in the unpublished text: "We worked in Cardinal Hickey's archdiocese for fifteen years. Never was there a complaint, until the problem with TeenSTAR came up, and then he wrote to Rome, not us."

Chastity Ed: Sex Ed by Another Name
This PCF/HLI clash is important in what it tells us about the sad state of curial judgement, prejudice and inconsistency in matters affecting both our own salvation and the faith and purity of our children. That the Cardinal who gave us the excellent Truth and Meaning of Human Sexuality guidelines could so aggressively support a TeenSTAR programme which knowledgeable priests and laity have assured him flies in the face of those same guidelines, is a sign of some personal confusion, to say the least. And this should be borne in mind by British Catholics in determining the worth of Cardinal Trujillo's patronage peddled during his recent flying visit to England and Scotland to speak at seminars on sex-education jointly sponsored by the Guild of Catholic Doctors and the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children.

Worried about staggering levels of teenage pregnancies and abortions, the inexorable growth of sexually transmitted diseases etc., etc., SPUC, as part of its belated (but welcome) attempt to raise its Catholic profile, is venturing into the area of classroom 'chastity education'. But many parents are opposed to this push which they see as sex-ed by another name; a project which, in refusing to kick sex talk out of the Catholic classroom altogether, continues to undermine the parental role. It is argued that not only does chastity-ed still leave children of differing levels of sensitivity and maturity at the mercy of 'the group', but that such separate programmes would be superfluous in Catholic schools where the Faith is taught whole and entire. Therefore, SPUC and other influential bodies should be concentrating all their energy and resources on the only long-term solution to the problem: pressuring bishops to undertake the diocesan reforms necessary to restore uncompromising Catholic catechesis to our schools. This would also obviate the anxieties, divisions and animosity caused by placing parents back in the same position of having to withdraw their children from chastity-ed classes as they have had to do from the more explicit sex-ed classes.

It is deeply worrying, however, that SPUC appears indifferent to these and other like concerns voiced by parents, preferring to call in a big gun like Cardinal Trujillo to give an authoritative aura to their plans while marginalising opponents. On attending Cardinal Trujillo's talk in London last September, I, for one, was amazed to find that although the seminar was held on SPUC's behalf under the auspices of the Guild of Catholic Doctors, the Guild's most experienced and knowledgeable guide in this field, Dr. Helen Davies, was seated in the hall and not included in the panel of speakers! Nor was there an opportunity for questions at the end of the seminar. All in all it was a telling statement of intent by the organisers since Dr. Davies and other parents in attendance were known to strongly oppose the SPUC initiative lurking behind the seminar: the development of yet another (…slow yawn…) chastity-ed programme to protect our children from the hedonists and save the day.

For its part, Christian Order has laid out in the February 1999 edition its arguments in favour of a complete ban on classroom sex-ed/chastity-ed, as also proposed by the Ukrainian Rite Catholic bishops, and will strongly oppose this move by SPUC. Apart from anything else, there is a decidedly secular, even Blairite, flavour about a project that makes out that it knows what is best for your child; which makes all the ecclesiastically correct noises about the rights of parents while effectively pressuring parents into feeling they must do something akin to what the chastity-ed proponents propose. The fact is that nobody can tell parents what they should or shouldn't do in the extremely delicate field of imparting sexual information to their children. Parents, who know their children as no other, may well decide that it would be better to do nothing in the line of chastity-ed. And so what? Such a decision is in perfect conformity with Pius XI's authoritative teaching in Divini Illius Magistri - which encyclical, by the way, is being increasingly sidelined and belittled by proponents of chastity-ed because it demolishes their specious stance. If, on the other hand, parents decide they need some help, they are quite capable of determining the who, what, when and where of such private, one on one instruction for their child. That is the Catholic approach. Thus, the sooner orthodox do-gooders get out of this parental domain and turn their considerable energy and resources to having the Catholic faith restored in their schools, parishes and dioceses the better. This would certainly take far more courage and faith than simply devising another chastity-ed program because it would involve upsetting bishops and priests along the way, thus forcing certain pro-lifers to take stock of their priorities. Do they possess sufficient courage and humility to change tack?

The debate about removal of all classroom sex-ed or the compromise of chastity-ed has also been a thorny issue within HLI for years. I well recall the controversy which raged at the 1988 HLI Conference in Irvine, California, between those supporting Randy Engel's call for a total ban and those behind Colleen Kelly Mast's promotion of chastity-ed, which first set me thinking about the whole issue while reflecting on my own experience of both chastity-ed and sex-ed at school in the 1970s. (As well as studiously ignoring Pius XI's wise counsel which condemns their stance, I feel sure that many of those promoting chastity-ed tend to view it through rose-coloured glasses because they are too old to have personally experienced it in their youth). Just as it took HLI a while to become more Traditional Mass-friendly (it was never hostile just lukewarm), perhaps the move towards the Ukrainian Rite bishops' call for a universal ban on any type of classroom sex-ed will come in time. But at this point, HLI's London office is venturing down the same dead-end path as SPUC. Reproduced in the APPENDIX to this article is a letter sent to the President of HLI, Father Richard Welch, OSB, several months ago about the HLI chastity programme. It summarises the concerns of many who vigorously oppose this obviously well-intentioned but fundamentally and gravely flawed approach to the problems and consequences of sexual license today.

Interested readers who missed the November 1997 & February 1999 CO's are welcome to send a SAE to Christian Order to obtain a one page summary explanation of the difference between classroom sex/chastity-ed and truly Catholic instruction in sexual morality, plus, on the reverse side, the relevant extract from Pius XI's pivotal document Divini Illius Magistri. Mr Smith's letter appended to this article could also be used to alert parents throughout the country to both the dangers inherent in chastity programmes being pushed by otherwise orthodox groups and the right and responsibility of parents to resist them.

An Essential Companion
It is perhaps too often said that one should really have such and such a work in one's library. But I can only say that if anyone is looking for an absorbing, plain-speaking, easily digestible compendium of the state of the Catholic Church vis-a-vis the world during the last several decades of the last millennium, they could not go past this autobiography. And that because, side by side with liturgical and scriptural chaos, the converging Catholic and secular crises of recent times largely reduce to sex, which is to say rebellion against the Natural Law and Humanae Vitae, about which very few know as much or can explain as simply and comprehensively as Fr Marx:

"Now, to reject Humanae Vitae - which taught nothing new but merely eaffirmed constant teaching throughout twenty centuries - is to reject Church authority, causing a ripple of doubt and rebellion in theology and ethics. Thus, the acceptance or rejection of Humanae Vitae truly creates a watershed. Given also the dissenting statements of some ten national hierarchies (out of some 120), today we find a tragic and enormous international theological confusion at all levels of Catholic education and catechesis. Pope John Paul II, who has repeatedly begged bishops to abide by the authentic teaching and to promote NFP, made it clear as early as 1987 that the morality of contraception was not in the area of legitimate theological questioning and discussion. This sexual confusion and immorality is also at the bottom of the tragic sex-ed predicament."

Those familiar with Marx's rapid-fire delivery of killer facts and fascinating anecdotes, which have educated and inspired a generation through his talks and newsletters, will enjoy the same in this most attractive, thoughtfully laid out and well indexed production. From the opening chapters about his early life on the family farm with his two brothers and eleven sisters ("We could never take a vote in our family: it would always be eleven to three"), through his schooling, novitiate and ordination ("Father Paul, you have a very bad name - Marx; we're sending you to study sociology so you can undo some of the evil your namesake Karl Marx perpetrated in the world"), to the personalities who have coloured his life and the numberless countries he has analysed with such percipience - this work races along at breakneck speed offering generous doses of humour and invaluable information and insights at every turn.

There is also the drama of his personal trials and tribulations within St. John's Benedictine Abbey, Minnesota, where he was forced out of the hugely successful Human Life Centre he had established there and made to undergo psychological and psychiatric tests for no apparent reason except to find a way to move on an early Humanae Vitae-supporting "papist priest." When he finally departed after 32 years of teaching and raising millions of dollars for the HLC and the Abbey, he was offered a mere $7,000 and a mid-sized car and denied his mailing list of supporters, his health insurance and quarterly magazine on NFP. And yet out of the trauma and intrigue which he suffered, "starting all over again from scratch", emerged the HLI phenomenon. How ironic that now, amidst claim and counter-claim about his recent removal from the HLI scene, he should find himself back at St. John's Abbey, having been sent for a psychological assessment but not allowed to see the subsequent report given to the Abbott, unable to travel anywhere unless accompanied by a monk from the Abbey, while apparently fighting a losing battle to make sure that the people he feels have conspired to oust him do not continue to use his name for fund-raising without his approval. [Readers wishing to offer their support to Fr. Marx may write to him at St. John's Abbey, Collegeville, MN 56321, U.S.A.).

As the new HLI regime knows well and whether it likes it or not, to countless people Marx is still HLI and HLI is Marx. And whatever the outcome of the current controversy that perception is not likely to change overnight. Yes, as they insist, HLI ultimately belongs to God alone. But, then, so too does the little pocket dynamo He raised up to establish it. Let us give thanks to the Lord for both and pray for a speedy resolution to the present strife, which only serves to benefit those enemies of life they have combated like no other.

 

* * * * * *

APPENDIX

September 8th, 1999
Feast of the Nativity of Our Lady

Dear Father Welch,

I am writing to express my unease and concern regarding a proposed "chastity education" programme being planned for the UK by the London-based branch of HLI under the aegis of its Executive Director, Mr Gregory Clovis. Please find enclosed a photocopy of a circular letter sent to all UK supporters of Human Life International.

I am especially concerned about the prospect of adolescent school-aged pupils being given the opportunity to have "a special, very candid question-and-answer session" with an adult on matters of sexual morality which could easily result in explicit information about sex being revealed to children who are not emotionally or psychologically ready to receive it. Although I am certain that this would not be the intention of the redoubtable Mrs Barbara McGuigan, it could quite easily be a by-product of such a situation and could also result in less precocious adolescent members of a group being given intimate information which they have not asked for and ignorance of which could leave them wide open to ridicule and abuse from their peer group. What may start off with the most honourable and Catholic of intentions could end up with sex instruction being inadvertently imparted to people in a classroom situation.

The 1995 document "The Truth and Meaning of Human Sexuality" issued by H.E Alfonso Lopez Cardinal Trujillo, President of the Pontifical Council for the Family, clearly condemns the transferrence of information of an intimate nature when it says, "No material of an erotic nature should be presented to children or young people of any age, either individually or in a group" (paragraph 126, the third of 4 working principles given as practical guidelines in this matter). This could quite easily occur in a situation where adolescents of varying temperaments, dispositions and stages of psychological development are brought together in a group to ask "very candid" questions of a sexual nature.

In fact it is noticeable that what HLI UK is proposing contradicts each of the four practical guidelines set down in paragraphs 122, 124, 126 and 127 of "The Truth and Meaning of Human Sexuality" (hereafter referred to as TMHS). The first of these principles enshrines the teaching, "Human sexuality is a sacred mystery and must be presented according to the doctrinal and moral teaching of the Church, always bearing in mind the effects of original sin". This is expressly contradicted by having a so-called "chastity education" programme at all rather than incorporating questions regarding conjugal morality within a sound orthodox programme of Religious Instruction with reference to the sixth and ninth commandments. The second principle, "Only information proportionate to each phase of their individual development should be presented to children and young people" is implicitly contradicted by giving this "chastity education" programme to "a combined audience of 700 teens". How many - if any - of these "teens" will be known to Barbara McGuigan or, for that matter, to any other teacher who will be trained to "teach chastity" to their classes when the course presented by Mrs McGuigan is over? This is also in total opposition to the recommendation in paragraph 119 of TMHS which emphasises "the right of the children and the young person to be adequately informed by their own parents on moral and sexual questions in a way that complies with his or her desire to be chaste and to be formed in chastity" (emphasis mine). In other words, instruction/information must be given to the child/adolescent at the pace that they ask for it, when they ask for it and not at any other time in any other situation under any other pretext.

HLI UK's "chastity education" programme also contravenes the fourth working principle, "No one should ever be invited, let alone obliged, to act in any way that could subjectively offend against his or her own delicacy". How does the HLI UK programme do this? By setting up a group of young people for an explicit question-and-answer session, the proposed HLI programme invites the adolescents involved to contravene this teaching, especially if the whole session is to be video-taped and distributed to "800 schools, churches, parents and organisations". Would not this constitute a violation of privacy?

I have already referred to the correct Catholic practice of including matters of sexual morality within a course of sound Religious Instruction, a principle which I had always assumed to be the policy of HLI in this delicate matter. When in 1995 I wrote to Father Paul Marx O.S.B concerning the much-vaunted "chastity education" programme TeenSTAR, I received a reply dated 24th June 1995 which included this comment from Father Marx: "For the life of me, I cannot understand why we do not teach the whole Catholic truth and then we will ensure chastity for our children. Nothing else will do it" (emphases mine). Father Marx also made a highly significant comment about the whole concept of "chastity education" in HLI reprint #38 (Sanity, Sex-Ed and Chastity) when he said, "The very term 'chastity education' is a kind of misnomer" and added, "Discussing physical sex before a mixed class of boys and girls is already an occasion of sin for them in many instances. The very intimacy of sex demands that every reference to it be made with the greatest reverence and sensitivity. Publicity is the violation of this intimacy; violations of it are so serious that giving sex instruction to a mixed class of students of various emotional ages is harmful even if the teachers are sincere and cautious" (emphasis mine).

Considering all of the above and bearing in mind the gravity of what HLI UK are proposing, I have only one question to ask: has there been or is there going to be a change of policy at HLI on sex education?

Clarification on this point would be welcomed and appreciated especially as Mr Greg Clovis has assured me that the programme has your full approval.

Yours most sincerely in the Lord of Life,

Stephen Michael Smith