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Bishop of Lincoln Issues Pastoral Letter on Contraception 

by Luiz Sérgio Solimeo

 

In 1917 at Fatima, Portugal, Mary Most Holy came to ask a sinful world to pray, specially the Rosary, to do penance and to amend its ways. In the last apparition of October 13, her last words to humanity were: “Let them offend Our Lord no more for He is already much offended.”  In this plea, a mother’s heart begs reprieve for her son who is God, the creator of heaven and earth, the giver and upholder of the Law.  Fatima was a prophetic message that foresaw a world increasingly bent on breaking natural and divine law. It is thus inspiring and heartening to read of a bishop who, courageously and intelligently countering the present assault on marriage and children, picks up his pastoral pen and, defining true commitment, defends love and life from the moment of sacred conception.

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No one doubts that the family is going through a crisis today that shakes the very foundations of our society. But few have the lucidity and courage to denounce generalized contraception as a major cause undermining the institution of marriage.

 

A false concept of love

Most Reverend James D. ConleyMost Reverend James D. Conley, Bishop of Lincoln, has done just this. In his March 25, 2014 pastoral letter titled The Language of Love - A letter to the Catholic families and healthcare providers of the Diocese of Lincoln,1] he calls out this evil as the overlooked cause of the family crisis. 

With simple and intelligent arguments, he shows how the contraceptive mentality undermines marriage’s very foundation—the generous mutual love of the spouses willing to beget children, which are seen as blessings from God. By avoiding children, a couple selfishly closes in on itself and their mutual love often ends up withering, giving rise to temptations of divorce.

This is due above all to the false concept of love that prevails nowadays:

We live in a world short on love. Today, love is too often understood as romantic sentimentality rather than unbreakable commitment. But sentimentality is unsatisfying. Material things, and comfort, and pleasure bring only fleeting happiness. The truth is that we are all searching for real love, because we are all searching for meaning.

True love accepts self-sacrifice

True love is something different. It is a sacrificial self-offering that participates in the love of Jesus Christ and in His Passion and Death on the Cross:

Love—real love—is about sacrifice, and redemption, and hope….

Sacrifice is the language of love. Love is spoken in the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, who poured out his life for us on the cross. Love is spoken in the sacrifice of the Christian life, sharing in Christ’s life, death, and resurrection. And love is spoken in the sacrifice of parents, and pastors, and friends.

An anti-childbearing culture

When this true concept of love and a proper understanding of the role of sacrifice are absent, children are considered to be a marriage’s burden and hindrance, instead of its blessing and crowning:

There is no true happiness in sin. Today, our culture rejects love when it rejects the gift of new life, through the use of contraception… Our culture often teaches us that children are more a burden than a gift—that families impede our freedom and diminish our finances. We live in a world where large families are the objects of spectacle and derision, instead of the ordinary consequence of a loving marriage entrusted to God’s providence. But children should not be feared as a threat or a burden, but rather seen as a sign of hope for the future.

Quoting his predecessor, Bishop Glennon P. Flavin (+1995), the Bishop of Lincoln shows that there is no happiness in sin and exhorts contracepting couples to abandon the practice:

To expect to find happiness in sin is to look for good in evil. … Dear married men and women: I exhort you to reject the use of contraception in your marriage. I challenge you to be open to God’s loving plan for your life.

God’s mercy in the Sacrament of Confession

The Bishop of Lincoln shows how Catholic doctors are morally bound not to prescribe contraceptives to their patients since contraception is not a medical treatment. And, he recommends:

If you have used or supported contraception, I pray that you will stop, and that you will avail yourself of God’s tender mercy by making a good heartfelt confession.

While recognizing the licitness of Natural Family Planning periodical abstention, Bishop Conley warns that this practice can sometimes lead to an anti-childbearing mindset and the loss of confidence in Divine Providence.

We thank Bishop Conley for his wise and timely magisterium on an issue that usually receives little emphasis from our shepherds, though crucial for the proper defense of the sacred institutions of marriage and the family, and the survival of society.

 


 1. Any emphases are ours.

 

 

 

Quote of the day

DAILY QUOTE for May 25, 2020

“I will take away not the grace but the feeling of grace...

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May 25

 

“I will take away
not the grace but the feeling of grace.
Though I will seem to leave you
I will be closer to you.”

Our Lord to St. Mary Magdalene de’ Pazzi


My Mother, I will stand with you on OCTOBER 10, 2020

Saint of the day

SAINT OF THE DAY

Pope St. Gregory VII

In 1073 at the death of Alexander II, the people of Rome cri...

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Pope St. Gregory VII

Pope Gregory VII was born Hildebrand in Tuscany, Italy. Little else is known of his early life. Hailed, historically, as one of the greatest of the Church's pontiffs and one of the most remarkable men of all time, his name, Hildebrand, meant “bright flame”. Those who hated him, which were many, interpreted the name as “brand of Hell”.

Hildebrand was a Benedictine monk, for a time living in Cluny, from whence he certainly gleaned the monastery’s ideal of societal reform.

As a cleric, he became chaplain to Pope Gregory VI, and a few years later, under Leo IX was made Cardinal Deacon. A man of outstanding energy and insight, Hildebrand became a power in Rome. It is greatly due to him that the practice of electing popes through a college of cardinals was established.

In 1073 at the death of Alexander II, the people of Rome cried out for the holy genius who had helped steer the Church for twenty years, “Hildebrand for Pope! Holy Peter wants Hildebrand, the Archdeacon!” Once before the holy monk had eluded the tiara but this time a proper college of cardinals, seconding the popular cry, induced him to accept an honor duly his.

Hildebrand assumed the name Gregory VII, and threw his energy and zeal into a continued reform, especially fighting simony (the sale of ecclesiastical posts) and clerical incontinence.

He confronted Emperor Henry IV head- on about his practice of choosing men for ecclesiastical positions. On meeting with dogged resistance, the pontiff finally had recourse to excommunication which drastically curtailed the proud monarch’s power, ultimately bringing Henry on foot to the Pope at the Castle of Canossa. Because of Henry’s rebellious obstinacy, Pope Gregory saw fit to leave him out in the cold for three days before receiving and reinstating the royal penitent.

But Henry failed to make any true personal reform and alienated his princes who elected another ruler. Still, he later rallied and went as far as electing another Pope, a Clement III, calling down upon himself another sentence of excommunication. He also attacked and entered the Eternal City in 1084, which forced Pope Gregory into exile. Henry had his protégée “pope” crown him Emperor. Ultimately repelled by an army fighting for the true pope, the Emperor Henry left Rome, but complications sent Gregory VII again into exile, this time to die.

His last words before his death were a summary of how he had lived, “I have loved justice and hated iniquity, therefore I die in exile.”

Weekly Story

WEEKLY STORY

There was once a young country wife who practiced devotion t...

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Mary and the Simple Country Wife

There was once a young country wife who practiced devotion to Holy Mary, just as her mother had taught her to do. This simple young lady considered herself fortunate to have married a handsome soldier. Little did she know that her soldier-husband had made a deal with the devil, that he would sell his wife for a certain sum of money.

One crisp, autumn morning the couple went out for their customary walk. Oddly, this time the young man insisted on heading towards the forest. It was at the forest where he intended to deliver his young bride over to the devil.

On their way to the forest, the couple passed in front of a Church dedicated to the Virgin Mary. The wife, overtaken with a desire to enter the church begged her husband to allow her to pray a Hail Mary in that church.

As the young lady entered the church, Holy Mary came forth from it, taking the form of the wife and accompanied the man into the forest.

When they at last approached the devil at the forest, he said to the man, “Traitor! Why have you brought me instead of your wife, my enemy, the mother of God?”

“And you,” said Mary, addressing the devil, “how have you dared to think of injuring my servant? Go, flee to hell.”

And then, turning to the man, Mary said to him, “Amend your life, and I will aid you.”

She then disappeared and that wretched man repented, amended his life and became a husband worthy of his simple country wife.

From the Glories of Mary, by St. Alphonsus Maria de Liguori.

 

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There was once a young country wife who practiced devotion to Holy Mary, just as her mother had taught her to do. This simple young lady considered herself fortunate to have married a handsome soldier.

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