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  • Writer's pictureMary Shivanandan

The Blessings of the Sex Abuse Crisis

Updated: Aug 28, 2018

The 1968 truce in the Church of holding to Humanae vitae publicly but privately not endorsing it, has created a climate of duplicity in the Church. To that extent the laity are implicated in the duplicity of bishops in the recent sex abuse crisis, since they are quite happy to reject the Church’s teaching on sexual morality. Most Americans think of contraception as a convenience not an intrinsic evil according to Church teaching. I know, for example, of Catholics who have shopped for confessors, who would support their decision to use contraception. I think, as laity, we must not be hypocritical, even though our sins do not approximate those of predator priests and high level ecclesiastics who cover up such sins.

As one who has attempted to promote the Church’s teaching even before Humanae vitae, I can only say that it has been both rewarding and frustrating. Some of the greatest rewards have come from the joy of spending time with couples, who have wholeheartedly embraced the Church’s teaching. I shall never forget a dinner in an Los Angeles restaurant, while attending a natural family planning (NFP) conference in the 1970s. A businessman, dining at a next-door table, was so taken with the joy expressed by the eight of us, that he paid our whole bill. It is not unusual for couples, who learn about their fertility and how to live with it, to describe it as the Church’s best-kept secret. This is not to say that it is easy. After all, the cross is central to our faith, but without it there would be no joy.

One of the great advantages of the present time is the abundance of opportunity for instruction in fertility awareness methods. That was not the case 50 years ago, when couples were presented with the convenience of contraception, which was endorsed by the medical profession and many in the Church; they were bombarded with the threat of overpopulation in developing countries and were seduced by the lure of radical feminism. They could, at the time, be excused for succumbing to what the Church has traditionally called an intrinsic evil because it comes between the couple themselves and between them and God, who is the Author of life and love. Fifty years on, not only have we seen the disastrous results of separating the unitive and procreative dimensions of sex, in family breakdown, the endorsement of sex outside marriage and yes, but also the sex abuse crisis of our priests, which, except the last, were forecast by Blessed Pope Paul VI in Humanae vitae.

"Priests and Laity need each other to restore the damage done to God’s beautiful gift of consecrated celibacy and marriage"

But things are different now. Besides the availability of books and courses, developed for the very young to learn about the beauty and sacredness of their bodies; and for adolescents to learn the mysteries of how God made them through the world-acclaimed TeenSTAR program developed by Dr. Hanna Klaus, Ob Gyn, (she describes it as experiential learning and self-discovery leading to responsible relationships) there are many adult instruction courses based on sound scientific principles. Most are listed on the web site There is now little or no excuse for not following the Church’s traditional teaching, but it does take two to tango. Priests and Laity need each other to restore the damage done to God’s beautiful gift of consecrated celibacy and marriage. I offer the following as a path to healing, with recommendations to priests first:

1. Stop paying lip service to Humanae vitae. Rather take some action.

2. Preach from the pulpit that contraception is not the panacea it is made out to be but destroys God’s beautiful plan for marriage, family and consecrated celibacy. (There are many good resources on the USCCB web site.)

3. Provide permanently, either on the Church notice board or in the bulletin, information on fertility awareness methods.

4. Encourage, in addition, theology of the body courses that provide Scriptural support for the teaching.

5. Encourage the practice of virtue especially male virtue.

6. Remind the congregation, either in the bulletin or from the pulpit, that they are coming to a sacred event and should dress accordingly.

7. Remind the congregation of the sacredness of the Eucharist and the importance of confessing sins of impurity before receiving.

As a corollary, those in the pew should:

1. Admit that contraception is wrong, go to confession and resolve not to use it in the future.

2. Sign up for a fertility awareness class.

3. Sign up for a theology of the body program or course.

4. Practice the virtues, particularly chastity.

5. Stop receiving the Eucharist until you have put your sex life in order.

6. If you are having sex outside of marriage or viewing pornography, stop.

7. Dress for Mass as though you are coming to a sacred event, which you are.

The time for fear of offending the congregation is past. The stakes are too high. Instead let this sex abuse crisis be both a wake-up call and a blessing!

© KM Associates



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