THE FAMILY UNDER ATTACK
by Don Pietro Leone, October 2014, 360pp . Available from Amazon.
It is difficult to gauge the number of abortions [the destruction of unborn babies] performed per year worldwide, although the World Health Organization estimates a figure of 40-55 million for clinical abortions, and an equally high figure might be estimated for abortions resulting from the use of the interuterine device [the “IUD”] and for the destruction of the unborn resulting from in vitro fertilization. As for those [destructions of life] caused by pills and chemicals in the earliest period...one might reasonably guess that their numbers amount to hundreds, thousands, or millions of millions [of deaths] per year. Such numbers of human lives destroyed each year [by abortion overall] make the genocides of Hitler...and Stalin [and Mao]...seem almost insignificant and, without any doubt whatsoever, [it] exceeds the numbers of human lives destroyed by any other method in the history of mankind. What is perhaps most remarkable about these numbers [of destroyed pre-born children] is not their sheer magnitude, but the mercy of God in allowing the world to continue to exist in light of them. (The Family Under Attack [FUA], pp. 175-176—my emphasis added)
* * *
What divides the two doctrines [the Traditional and the Novel] is their respective visions of the family: its primary finality [the “matrimoniae finis primarius”] and, consequently, its size and the possibility of limiting its size....To show that the novel doctrine is not unambiguously modernist [“the only justification for giving such confused and confusing texts a Catholic interpretation” (152)], one would have to explain [about this 1968 encyclical, Humanae Vitae's “unhappy synthesis of two opposing tendencies” (152)] that it can give the finality of love priority over the finality of procreation only chronologically; that the responsibility that it [“the novel doctrine” with its novel “natural birth control”] advocates cannot... exclude generosity, but [such mature responsibility] must entail the attitude whereby parents accept the number of children that God in His Providence wishes to send, and at the time He wishes to send them. This is then how we [faithfully try to] interpret the modern [contemporary] magisterial doctrine on these issues, observing in passing that it [i.e., our strained “hermeneutic”] is a symptom of a grave crisis in the Church that the Magisterium, the function of which is to deepen and clarify Catholic doctrine, has in the last forty to fifty years been producing texts obscure or misleading, which cannot be understood without expert theological exegesis. (FUA, pp. 152-153 — my emphasis)
* * *
We begin with the Declaration of the Holy See in March 1944 (AAS XXVI p. 103) concerning the modern authors who deny the absolute priority of the procreative finality of marriage. It observes inter alia that certain [modern] authors take as the primary finality: 'the reciprocal love of the spouses and their union to be developed and perfected by the physical and spiritual gift of their own person' [We — says Don Pietro Leone himself in this longer bracket and footnote — are not far from Familiaris Consortio here [22 November 1981]. We can trace the inversion of the finalities of marriage in the present  Magisterium to the 'modern authors', through the personalism of Pope Paul VI...and the new theories bruited about on the floor of the [Vatican] Council [1962-1965], even by cardinals such as Léger and Suenens, which reduced the importance of the procreative purpose of marriage and opened the way to its frustration by elevating its unitive end and the gift of self to an equal or higher level (cf. Romano Amerio, Iota Unum, s.46).] (FUA, p. 133 — my emphasis, in both the main text and in the extended footnote referred to and then quoted)
* * *
We have been careful clearly to distinguish the natural and the supernatural orders throughout, especially in view of the tendency to confuse them prevalent in contemporary thought.... In the recent teaching of the Magisterium on the themes treated in this book, the distancing from the Faith occurs principally by means of confusion of the natural and supernatural orders. This tendency was already manifest in the Second Vatican Council [because of Eclectic Ecumenism, too!]. In the first chapter of 'Die Neue Theologie' (Amis de St. Francois de Sales 1996), the comment of the Jesuit Fr. Henri Bouillard S.J. is quoted that: 'The Second Vatican Council avoided the expression “supernatural” in its principal documents.' In this connection Romano Amerio in Iota Unum points out (at paragraph 253 in chapter 35 on Ecumenism) that in the two documents Ad Gentes and Nostra Aetate (on Ecumenism and the non-Christian religions) the word 'supernatural' did not even appear....Ambiguity and equivocation in matters of the Faith not only confuse the mind but also make it more difficult to lead a good life. They [ambiguity and equivocation] are a danger to souls, acting insidiously in the manner of a slow poison. (FUA, pp. 1, 55, and 91— my emphasis)
A recent and learned book by Don Pietro Leone, The Family Under Attack (2014), just arrived in the mail as a gift to our family, but it was sent also with a polite invitation and request. This request — made explicitly and especially to my wife — was for her to read and review this deeply thoughtful book, and even in a timely way if it were feasible.
As it turns out, it has not been feasible for my wife to do so in a timely way, in view of some challenging imponderables that surprised us, and given our larger family obligations. But, one evening, when she was looking the other way, her husband deftly snatched the book and began to read it — and then for several hours. He completed the book of 360 pages on the next day, after being especially attentive to the concluding and discerningly critical, two appendices, which were also a sort of recapitulation of the book: Appendix A : “Theology of the Body”; and Appendix B: “Limbo Called Into Question.”
Theology of the Body
For example, Don Pietro Leone — the well-known pseudonym of this faithful and well-educated Catholic priest (dwelling now somewhere in Italy) — says about Pope John Paul II's extensive 5-year series of discourses (and weekly Wednesday Papal Allocutions) on the Theology of the Body (1979-1984), as follows:
In fine, we see clearly that Theology of the Body is a personalist, phenomenological system. As such it is concerned with the subjective realm, such as the person and love, and [it] neglects the objective realm, be it Catholic dogma (as with the doctrine that the primary end of [conjugal] sexuality and marriage [or, the “Matrimoniae Finis Primarius"] is procreation [the “Bonum Prolis”]; or as with the distinction between the natural and supernatural orders), or scholastic theology [and, hence, the range, reality, and indispensability of Divine Grace], philosophy, or morality (as with the distinctions between the different forms of love [to include the concupiscentia of our wounded, fallen nature]. The outcome [of this phenomenological personalism] is a shift from the virtue of love to the passion of love [a concupiscible passion], from supernatural love to natural love, and in the final analysis from sanctity to sexuality.
In this lack of Catholicity, Theology of the Body, although presented as the praise of Catholic conjugal love, becomes instead a paean to Eros [a song of joyful, thankful, and exulting praise to Eros], with greater resonance for the World than for the Church. As such, it certainly constitutes one of the more remarkable fruits of the much vaunted rapprochement (or “aggiornamento”) between the Church and the World. (349-350—italics in the original; my bold emphasis added)
At the beginning of his Appendix B — Limbo Called Into Question — Don Pietro Leone frames the situation and the document that appeared in the Spring of 2007 — not very long after John Paul II had died (on 2 April 2005) and just two years after Benedict XVI had been installed as Pope on 24 April 2005 — and our author says:
At the end of the second chapter we briefly recounted the Church's doctrine on Limbo [to include the classic, normative texts of Saint Thomas Aquinas]. How, if at all, has this doctrine been [now] affected by the document of the International Theological Commission [as a Part of the Paramagisterium? Or?] in early 2007 entitled: “The Hope of Salvation [the Spes Salutis] for Infants Dying Without Baptism”? The document was heralded by certain organs of the press [e.g., the Corriere della Sera on 3 May 2007] as the abolition of Limbo [i.e., “Il Papa abolisce il Limbo”], although the document does not in fact claim to be more than a work of “speculative theology” (cf. Preface), and the Pope [Benedict XVI] did no more than approve [sic] its publication (cf. Preliminary Note). Its status should therefore be viewed rather as a theological opinion [a “theologoumenon”] — which cannot of itself be said to supersede the traditional doctrine. (351—my emphasis)
In this above passage we see the characteristic courtesy which Don Pietro Leone so loyally reveals, and we see here even his kind “pia interpretatio” of things coming forth from the Vatican or from the Pope — reminding us, also, of how Saint Thomas himself did likewise politely disagree with Saint Augustine at times, or at least graciously demur! Moreover, here is what Don Pietro Leone now introduces and shows to be Saint Thomas's own long-standing and traditional words about Limbo:
Thirdly [i.e., a third grave objection to this 2007 document of speculative theology is,], the document runs counter to the common patristic and theological Tradition, culminating in the doctrine of St. Thomas Aquinas. He presents the beatitude of unbaptized children as a union of the intellect and will with God in the enjoyment of all natural goods, a beatitude unmarred by the deprivation of the [supernatural] beatific vision of which they can have no knowledge. (Quaestio Disputata de Malo 5) (355—my emphasis)
One page later, Don Pietro Leone quietly and politely strengthens his critique of the International Theological Commission's subversively speculative Document:
Fourthly, the speculative theology contained in the document is at the least questionable. As far as the constant tradition of the Church is concerned, the principle of God's universal salvific will (as well as the principles of the hierarchy of Truths) and that of extra-sacramental salvation have never been applied to unbaptized infants. St. Thomas applies the principle to non-Catholics, but not in such a way as to deny the necessity of Faith or Baptism, let alone to propose the possibility of a purely natural means of salvation....
The prima facie sense of the text [i.e., the Speculative Document's citations of the passages] from Lumen Gentium, from the New Catechism [CCC], and the [New] Funeral Mass for an unbaptized infant, that men may be saved without Faith or baptism — whether by supernatural or natural means — cannot, in the light of this brief synthesis [of argumentation] offered above, be described as a development of Catholic [Doctrine], but rather of non-Catholic doctrine (see the discussion of Modern Doctrines in the [“Contemporary”] Magisterium in Chapter Three [i.e., entitled “A Novel Tendency in the Magisterium,” pp. 54-93]). The term sensus fidelium in this connection is [therefore] a misnomer. (356-357—my emphasis)
As our reverent and wholehearted priestly author, showing again his palpable love for the little children, approaches the conclusion of his book — which has been so candidly attentive to the unmistakable “moral devastation” of Adultery, Abortion, and the Abortifacient Forms of “Contraception” (i.e., “Birth Prevention”) — he will draw us into some further-sobering reflections to take with us and then to act upon:
Cardinal Journet notes that exceptions to a general law cannot be presumed, but must be demonstrated.... We conclude that the [International Theological] Commission has not demonstrated its case. In fact the application of God's universal salvific will to all men regardless of Church teaching, whether dogmatic or simply traditional, manifests in the final analysis a form of naturalism, which involves ignorance of, or disregard for, the Faith. In relation to the nature of Limbo in particular, it manifests, at least partially, the attitude that Limbo is a destiny both unhappy and unjust. The Commission describes it (at least once) as “the exclusion from eternal beatitude” (s.2), whereas (according at least to Tradition and St. Thomas Aquinas) it does indeed consist of eternal beatitude (albeit of the natural order), where nothing due to such persons is lacking from this beatitude. (357 — my emphasis)
Then, with his characteristic modesty, Don Pietro Leone, proposes his own speculative theological opinion, which is, admittedly, not only in contradistinction to, but also “at variance with the position of the [International] Commission” (357), and it especially considers “the Sacramental order” within the divinely disclosed “economy of salvation.” Thus, he says:
The salvation of all unbaptized infants would detract from the excellence of the economy of salvation, as it has been revealed to us. For to this excellence belongs the excellence of the sacramental order, where the [assumed] Sacred Humanity of Christ [Himself a Divine Person] encounters the human person at once [i.e., concurrently] on the spiritual and physical levels. And in the case of Baptism, moreover, in a sacrament received, and thereby hallowed, by Christ Himself. If, however, all unbaptized infants [such as those killed in abortions] attain Paradise, then an important proportion of the Elect, that is to say all infants who will have died between conception and the use of reason, whether by natural or violent means, whether to Christian or to non-Christian parents, and from the beginning to the end of time, will have been saved without partaking in the excellence of the sacramental order. (357-358 — my emphasis)
Centrality of TOB and Limbo Themes
After reflectively considering Don Pietro Leone's own specific words, we may better appreciate his brief introductory words to his Two Appendices, and the rationale he had for including them now:
In the appendices we treat two themes of current interest [as of 2014]. The first is the “Theology of the Body,” which has touched [along with “Contraception”] the lives of millions of people, above all in America, the second is the attack on the doctrine of Limbo, which has found particular expression in a document of a Vatican theological commission. These two themes relate to the subject matter of the present book inasmuch as the first pertains to sexuality, and the second pertains to the fate [thus destiny] of aborted infants. In particular, the first theme is a clear instance of Personalism, and the second is a clear instance of the confusion of the natural and supernatural orders. (325—my emphasis)
After reading and savouring a few of these illuminating and decisively important passages with my wife — to include some of the earlier and more difficult and abstract, philosophical considerations about Subjectivism and Naturalism and Phenomenology — she encouraged me to put some of my cumulative observations and general assessments in writing — especially as they would touch upon the lives of the little children and their attainment of Vita Aeterna et Beatitudo unto the Greater Glory of God Who created them.
For, I had become increasingly convinced that Don Pietro Leone's insights about two matters, above all, should be more fully presented and deeply discussed and acted upon by others:
(1) the confusion between the Natural and the Supernatural Orders;
(2) the inversion of the finalities, especially about the ends (purposes, human motivations) of Marriage.
In light of John Paul II's own Evangelium Vitae — which is essentially only about Natural Life — we should ask: “What, then, is the purpose of Natural Life?” Or, “What is Natural Life for? What answers do we then receive? What answers should we receive? Do we not now often forget that, in the traditional Catholic Faith, the purpose of Natural Life is “to people Heaven.” That is, to people heaven with (also for the sake of) the Little Children — unto the Greater Glory of God, as well as unto the Gift, Fruit, Joy, and Communion of the Beatific Vision with its foretold Coruscation in the mysterious and unfathomable Lumen Gloriae. “Sinite Parvulos ad Me venire” dixit Jesus. Praesertim! Abundantius!
Structure and Organisation
It seems now fitting to present the structure and overall organisation of Don Pietro Leone's book, especially because the book contains no Index. Part of the book's artful presentation, however, is the author's use of his footnotes, which are usually a counterpoint or corrective to the specific texts or Church documents he is analyzing. One could learn so much, if one would only read the footnotes of the book in sequence. That itself would be a good preparation also for the final two Appendices.
The art work on the cover is a painting of the Holy Family by Peter Paul Rubens, and entitled “The Flight into Egypt.” Don Pietro Leone's modest Latin-Language Dedication is to Our Lady of Guadalupe and it essentially says: “If this little book contains in it anything of good, let it be (or may it be) most humbly dedicated to the Most Blessed Virgin of Guadalupe.” The Epigraph of his book, moreover, is from Pope John Paul II, namely his 25 March 1995 Encyclical, Evangelium Vitae (58):
We need now more than ever to have the courage to look the truth in the eye and to call things by their proper name [Don Pietro Leone's own italics and ethos of candour!], without yielding to convenient compromises or to the temptation of self-deception.”
With these tones and marks of reverence and integrity and trenchancy before us, we may now more receptively and adequately consider, in outline, the structured contents of the book.
The book is divided into three parts with a total of thirteen chapters and two appendices:
Part I (Chapters 1-3) deals mostly “From the Philosophical Perspective” — and with “Philosophy and Theology,” “Morality,” and “A Novel Tendency in the Magisterium,” respectively;
Part II (Chapters 4-9) deals with “The Nature of Sexuality” (Marriage in Philosophical Ethics), “Contraception,” “The Expansion of Impurity,” “The Practice of Abortion,” “The Ethics of Abortion,” and “'Pro-Choice'”; and
Part III (Chapters 10-13) is “From the Theological Perspective” and deals with “Marital and Non-Marital Sexuality” (“Marriage in Moral Theology”), “Chastity,” “Abortion and the Gospel of Life,” and “The Motivation and Sinfulness of Impurity and Abortion.”
The final two Appendices A & B, already specifically addressed, deal with “Theology of the Body” and “Limbo Called into Question,” respectively.
Here, near the end of my own portion of exposition and evaluation of Don Pietro Leone's depiction of “the Origin, Nature, and Tendency of the Magisterial Novelties” I prefer mostly to present and accent Father's own lucid and faithful words. My wife will then contribute more fully, and from her heart, about what she especially notes and sees — as a wife, mother and a convert to the Catholic Faith — to be the most important effects on the children of what Don Leone calls “The Expansion of Impurity” and “the Inverted (or Evaded) Finalities of Marriage” — i.e., the divergent or sometimes misunderstood views of a Catholic family and “The Order of the Ends of Marriage.” But, first we shall consider what Father detects to be the Novel Tendencies in some of the teaching authority of the Church, given her Munus Docendi.
What Father sees to have entered the Church has indeed “crept in” and by way of unofficial opinions and equivocal speculations. It reminds one of what the Germans call a “Samtpfötchen Revolution” — a revolution coming in quietly on padded feet, or on soft “cats' paws.” It is both a vivid feline and maritime (nautical) metaphor. (Sailors, too, especially know about “catspaws” — those light winds gently rippling or ruffling a calm sea, and sometimes suddenly arriving, and usually not too long before the stronger wind (at least a good puff of wind, or perhaps a squall) comes even soon behind it.) Let us now consider these methods in a doctrinal context.
In his lengthy Chapter 3 (54-93), entitled “A Novel Tendency in the Magisterium,” the author especially notes a “radical subjectivism” and this overall “tendency to naturalize” (83) the supernatural (natural supernaturalism, as it were); and along with a deeper emotional (or sensate and sentimental) theology which places the Good before (or above) the priority of Truth. But, emphatically, he will have us understand that:
The origins of these novel doctrines [are] to be traced... to an intellectual movement of the nineteenth century (which is an expression of the spirit of the World), and not merely to the Second Vatican Council, or to the postconciliar “spirit.” (86 — my emphasis)
Furthermore, Father says:
The motivation for this [naturalising secularised] distancing from the Faith seems to be the precedence given to a new ideal, namely the loving communion of men irrespective of their beliefs, in other words to the priority of Love over Truth: the priority of the order of the Good over the order of the Truth. This priority runs counter both to Reason and to Faith, for Reason demands that one must first know the object before one can love it, and love it in the appropriate way; and (as Romano Amerio explains in Iota Unum) Faith teaches that the Procession of the Second Person of the Most Holy Trinity from the Intellect of the First Person, precedes the Procession of the Third Person of the Most Holy Trinity from the Will of the First and Second Persons. This priority of the Good over the True is manifest in the falsely conceived principles of “Dialogue” and “Ecumenism” where union between parties is sought even at the expense of the Truth. An example of this may be seen in the Magisterial document [John Paul II's Encyclical] “Ut Unum Sint” (25 May 1995) in regard to “Sister Churches.” (56-57 — my emphasis)
Don Pietro Leone supports Father Georg May's discerning insights when he recapitulates them, as follows:
Ecumenism, being above all a doctrinal matter, most obviously errs in according priority to the order of the Good over that of the True; but it also typically errs in ignoring Grace, which is a feature of the Catholic confession, of not all of the other confessions, and none of the non-Christian religions.
It thereby also falls prey to the Naturalism noted above. (57 — my emphasis)
Summarising the further doubtful fruits of the tendency to give priority to the Good over the True, our author adds:
As far as the themes of this book are concerned, the aforementioned priority is particularly manifest in an approach to philosophy which we have called “Magisterial Personalism.” According to this approach, man is prized not in virtue of objective and supernatural standards, but solely in virtue of his humanity (see the section on the Dignity of Man in chapter 2); marriage is understood not in accordance with the objective moral law, but simply in terms of “love,” and is described in terms of “life and love” (chapter 4); it is insinuated that the primary end [finality] of marriage is love (chapter 5); the conjugal act is presented as “total self-giving love”; and contraception is presented as sinful on this basis (chapter 5). This form of personalism finds a particularly clear expression in the doctrine known as “Theology of the Body” (see Appendix A).... We understand personalism here as that system of ethics which is grounded in the person rather than in being. (58, 62—my emphasis)
Ambiguity Favouring Heresy
We propose now to consider how Father understands both the origin and the fitting evaluation of these novel tendencies in the Magisterium, reminding us of the Magisterium's Mission:
Now, the very raison d'être of the Magisterium is to teach the Catholic Faith and to condemn heresy. This it did...in Lamentabili of St. Pius X (1907) when it condemned the Modernist doctrines (Errores Modernistarum) which had crept into the Church by way of unofficial teachings of its members; but now these same errors have crept into the Magisterium itself (cf. Iota Unum s. 24), and into the teaching of a not inconsiderable sector of the hierarchy and the clergy as well, casting a veil of darkness over all things.... If formal heresy was avoided [at the Second Vatican Council], Catholic doctrine was expressed with ambiguity, an ambiguity, to be precise, which favours heresy. In this connection Romano Amerio writes (Iota Unum s. 50): “These inexact formulations were deliberately introduced so that post-conciliar hermeneutics could gloss or re-inforce whichever ideas it likes. [And Father Edward Schillebeeckx, O.P., explicitly stated in 1965, as follows]: 'We will express it in a diplomatic way, but after the Council we will draw out the implicit conclusions [les conclusions implicites]'.” (86-87 — my emphasis)
Faith, Virtue, and Eternal Vigilance
But, as part of our faithful vigilance, we must always remember that “to understand an ambiguous statement [especially a deliberately ambiguous one!], one must clearly understand it in both of its senses, which means in this context both its Catholic and its non-Catholic sense” (89), lest we fall prey to the condemned error of “Latitudinarism” (as Pope Pius IX understood it) or slothfully slide into Irenism and Self-Deception. Throughout his profound and perspicacious book, Don Leone has helped us generously and admirably in our own efforts to detect and resist subtle errors and to grow in our understanding of the Faith and in both intellectual and moral virtue, while striving to be in, and to remain in, a state of sanctifying grace usque ad finem.
He has also taught us to try to live up to the demands of the virtue of Prudentia, without sliding slothfully into a Prudentia Carnis (Father's phrase) or Prudentia Carnalis (the words of Pope Gregory the Great in his Moralia in Job). The Virtue of Prudence is without cunning or cowardice (i.e., neither Astutia, nor Ignavia or Timiditas). Carnal Prudence, however, is often a present danger to us, and at least an abiding temptation — especially today with Democracy and putative Tolerance and All That.
~ Reflections of a Wife and Mother and Convert ~
As I (Maike Hickson now speaking) had tried to argue in a recent article in Christian Order (“Mercy For the Little Ones”, June/July 2014), when the Church deals with the matter of marriage and the family, she needs to be at first and persistently, very attentive to the Little Ones, the vulnerable little children who cannot defend themselves and therefore call out for the Church's protection in her Mission to help the poor — and thus also the “Poorest of the Poor” (in the words of Gerhard Cardinal Müller), the children of divorced parents, “the orphans of divorce.”
As I have likewise written in the above-referenced Christian Order article, my motive for writing on these matters at all was, in part, that, because my own parents divorced while I was a little child, I could speak from the depth of my heart about the suffering that divorce puts into the lives of the children. Additionally, because I am also a convert to the Catholic Faith, having lived much of my life in an atheistic, secular atmosphere and those social surroundings, I could also speak with conviction about the importance of the traditional moral teaching of the Catholic Church and how it helps us who were lost to lead a better life, and not that more restricted or more inhumane life that is often indirectly and pejoratively insinuated in some of the recent arguments coming from the professed Church reformers themselves. When these reformers claim that the current moral teaching does not sufficiently respond to the needs of the people of today, then it necessarily follows that the laws of God are insufficient. Christ Himself was apparently not far-sighted enough to anticipate all of this!
In the following reflection, I thus propose to discuss two parts of Don Pietro Leone's book, those that pertain to the themes which are also somewhat close to my own experience.
Impurity and Loss of Faith
I shall start with his discussion (in chapter 6) of the increase of impurity in our surrounding and intrusive secular society. Our author clearly draws the connection between a loss of the Faith and an increase in impurity — a moral devastation which will finally, and also gravely, affect the children, as we know. He says:
...the rejection of God has engendered a blindness to the objective meaning and goodness of chastity, marriage, and procreation, as well as to the supernatural graces [actual, sacramental, and sanctifying] that are available and necessary for their fulfilment. (p. 155)
The understanding of chastity, marriage, and procreation have thereby been obscured in their meaning. What Father shows is that when love is not governed and directed by reason and a clear moral teaching, it soon turns out to be reduced to its sensible part, to its inordinately passionate part and thereby also soon coarsens and degrades it. It indeed soon turns out to be a selfish form of love that is no longer attentive to the other, but, rather, seeks to fulfil its own immediate desires. Because a world without God is, in all its spheres, more inhuman, love will be sought even more as a form of consolation.
Father shows how selfish parents who do not follow God's moral laws anymore tend to “neglect, abandon, and abuse their children” (157) in different ways; and they thus effectively instill in their own children an even greater yearning for a higher form of love, because, in their own sensate ambiance, they have never experienced it. They may still perhaps hope, therefore, to be able to find the more truly generous forms of love (e.g., a love of benevolence, not just one of concupiscence). That love, however, is more and more likely now to be perceived and understood only in its merely passionate and sensible forms, immediately felt with their senses. A deeper, stiller, calmer love which is filled also with a sense of duty and protective and formative responsibility is, therefore, likely to be sadly lacking to them.
Don Pietro Leone himself puts it so well in his book, and provides us with so many good arguments, as well, when he counters the prevalent idea that there are “good elements” in extramarital relationships. Even though he admits that these illicit liaisons (adulteries often) may bring some healing to the heart, given the wounds inflicted by a lack of love in the past; nevertheless, they cannot heal those wounds fully, because they even add new lesions explicitly, inasmuch as the couple does not respect each other in a fuller way, as the persons bound to each other by a vow (even an irrevocable promise to God) would do in a sacramental marriage. Father adds (160):
And since the extramarital relationship fails to treat persons with the respect due to them, namely with a full marital love, it maltreats and abuses them: it inflicts new wounds upon them.
He also portrays this love as a love that is largely governed by sexual love, and which cuts out the important moral laws of love, namely chastity, marriage, and procreation. Such extramarital affairs mostly avoid having children, since often these relationships only last as long as the passions survive, perhaps a few months, perhaps a few years. This is merely “a pale simulacrum of marriage.” (161) Yet, only a true marriage can be abidingly fruitful and good: “Procreation is only licit within the context of marriage, as only marriage can provide the foundation for the education of well-balanced and happy children.” (164 — footnote) Father shows again here his special attentiveness to the children, their protection and formation.
This general problem of “love affairs” without marital bond and without the intention of any procreation of children (as a fruit of their mutual and loyal love) is that the problem is even gravely intensified by the modern media which manifoldly stir and incite the desires for sexual pleasures. Additionally, “sex-education” programmes such as those promoted by the United Nations foster a “purely hedonistic vision of sexuality.” (163) The modern world thereby reduces even the natural dignity of man and depreciates man's capacity to form any loyal and lasting marriage bond and to sustain a higher discipline and culture by fostering its deeper and noble traditions and faithful perseverances. We are reduced to mere sensate, animal-like beings, not capable of keeping our word or an honourable bond — or a true vow (and irreversible promise!).
Contraception and the Ends of Marriage
When we now consider the chapter on contraception (chapter 5), we will realise how the orientation toward the blessing of children gives a marriage its fruitful and enduringly purposeful direction.
Don Pietro shows, regrettably, how the recent teaching of the Church has been fundamentally altered concerning the Ends of Marriage, and altered to its detriment, he believes. For example, Pope Paul VI, as well as Pope John Paul II and the New Catechism and Canon Law, all state that the primary end of marriage is “love,” and no longer, as it was traditionally stated, the procreation of children. The mutual good of the spouses now comes before the good of the offspring.
Quoting Pope Pius XII, Father relates how this inversion of priorities had been previously rejected by the Magisterium, showing how the perfection of husband and wife were to be subordinate to the procreation and cultivated and sustained education of the children. Our author also makes reference to Holy Scripture (especially Genesis) where it is clearly revealed that God created man and woman so that they may go forth and multiply and fill the earth with children and well-reared children, as well. In this sense, sexual love serves as a means to a greater end and greater good, and this conjugal love and mutual support is to be subordinate to other and greater goods, namely “the conservation of the species.” (138) Father wisely reminds us that even the physical and psychological characteristics of man and woman prepare them for procreation, namely “the male has a natural propensity to work for keeping the family, whereas the female has a natural propensity towards the care and nurture of offspring.” (138)
Moreover, he forcefully describes the subtle change of the Ends of Marriage during the 20th century, starting with Pope Pius XI's encyclical Casti Connubii (31 December 1930). He presents a clear and convincing critique of a slightly novel development slipped into the wording of the Papal Magisterium that has brought forth much bad fruit. Indeed, he says:
Various elements of Magisterial Personalism are in evidence here: subjectivism, along with a preoccupation with psychology, love, and the person, the disregard for objectivity, along with Tradition, past Magisterial teaching, Sacred Scripture and Natural Law arguments. (142)
The reason why this shift in the teaching of the Church is so consequential is the following: when spouses enter a marriage with the main purpose to fulfill themselves and make themselves happy, they lose sight of a sense of duty and openness to life. They will only be open to children if it suits their needs at the time, and when they feel it does not inordinately (or uncomfortably) impede their perceived happiness. In short, given our fallen nature's sinful propensities, such a concept will tend to foster subjectivism and selfishness.
Instead, when marriages are contracted with the clear sense of a long-range mission, namely to “populate heaven,” and thereby also to give greater Glory to God by giving Him more souls to praise and thank Him in the Beatitude of Eternal Life, they start their sacramental marriages with a very different attitude: one of generosity and sacrifice, too. These spouses will be oriented toward what God wants from them, not the other way around, what they want from God, or what they want for themselves.
Therefore, Father rightly puts the discussion of the Ends of Marriage into the Chapter on contraception. Once the primary purpose of marriage has been shifted away from having babies, it is only a question of time when Catholics actively start to use means to avoid having babies. But if we have an abundant love for God, and are grateful to Him for having created us, and are loyal children of God who follow His Commandments, we will not want to be found wanting in our responsive (and reciprocal) generosity.
Large families are a blessing! Many children are a blessing! We speak of the Bonum Prolis, the good of offspring, the good of children. Don Leone shows beautifully in several of his quoted passages how, since ancient times, the Church had kept to this attitude of generosity which thus led, correlatively, to her very restrictive rule concerning the “calculations” of natural Birth Control. As Pope Pius XII taught, the continual use of the marriage act without openness to children without a grave reason “would be a sin against the very nature of married life.” (Pope Pius XII himself, as quoted, 147)
Moreover, as Father importantly points out, the fact alone that one of the spouses, from the outset of their putative marriage, has intended to avoid having babies (much less having the resolve to do it even entirely so), renders that marriage itself invalid from its inception. That is how much importance is put on the good of the children: the Bonum Prolis.
Finally, he also counterpoints once more the novel to the traditional teaching of the Church concerning the Ends of Marriage by even discussing the “pro-life” 1968 encyclical, Humane Vitae, by Pope Paul VI. The author sums up his earlier and fuller analysis of that document so:
We remark that Humanae Vitae advocates a wide use of natural birth control. We have seen in the summary above how it also praises the practice in glowing terms. We remark too that in advocating a wide use of natural birth control, it never warns against an excessive use as Pius XII had done, and that in solemn tones. (150)
Beauty and Wisdom of the Church
To conclude my few remarks on Don Pietro Leone's truly wonderful book, I would like once more to affirm how important the traditional moral teaching of the Church is for a good life on earth, and as a fortifying preparation for the greater adventure (and risk) of attaining to Beatitude. Even only on a natural level, the doctrine of the Church makes sobering good sense, and it makes wise sense because it comes from God who made us all! (The Moral Law may even be seen as “Manufacturer's Instructions” so as to make things work well!)
This is what I came to see myself, long before I had the gift and grace of supernatural Faith. Next to the beauty of the Traditional Liturgy, I first came to see the Beauty of the Moral Teaching of the Church. It was so convincing as to its wisdom and truth. It was confirmed by my own life in a secular world, which had been so permeated by the atmosphere of cohabiting, aborting, and divorcing people. As Don Leone so clearly puts it, such a disordered and squalid life, if uncorrected, only leads downwards, not upwards. I am grateful to God for having led me out of this mud and effectively constricting asphyxiation, into his spiritual spaciousness and beauty and happiness; and also to the author for making these arguments in defense of the Church's traditional teaching so clear and available for many people — not only the learned — both Catholic and non-Catholic alike, that they might finally find true happiness — without guile and without self-deception.
Essential Apologetics for Synod Fathers!
Depending on natural, not supernatural, premises at the outset, I consider this work to be a deft form of apologetics concerning the moral teaching of the Catholic Church, so greatly needed today. It provides us with the rationale and effective arguments to convince even much of the sinning and inattentive world how the traditional moral guidance of the Church could (and should) lead everyone to a more fruitful, a more fulfilling, and finally to a happier life on earth (and a much happier one in the promised life of Eternal Beatitude thereafter!).
Don Leone's book should be printed and distributed widely. Indeed, it should be given to all the actual participants of the previous 2014 Synod, as also to the prospective participants of the even more important, forthcoming Synod of Bishops in 2015.