By John Rozycki
In the Sunday, February 10, 2013 edition of the Des Moines Register, an “84-year old regular churchgoing Catholic” incorrectly concludes that the Catholic Church’s ban on artificial contraception is at least partly responsible for poverty, hunger, and disease. On this faulty premise, he concludes that that the Church’s position is morally wrong. First, the lack of contraception is not a cause of poverty, hunger or disease. A September 5, 2012 study by the non-sectarian Heritage Foundation concludes:
“Child poverty is an ongoing national concern, but few are aware that its principal cause is the absence of married fathers in the home. Marriage remains America’s strongest anti-poverty weapon, yet it continues to decline.”
Second, the gentleman attempts to give his faulty conclusion credibility by asserting that the majority-over 90%–of Catholics practice artificial birth control. While no doubt some Catholics do, I doubt that it is anywhere near that high, especially among faithful Catholics. Most importantly, the Church has not, does not, and will never base its faith and moral teachings on polls or majorities! Its teaching authority comes from the Holy Spirit! I suggest that the gentleman humbly consider the Catechism paragraphs 85-88 and 553 among others in light of Matthew 16: 13 – 19.
85 “The task of giving an authentic interpretation of the Word of God, whether in its written form or in the form of Tradition, has been entrusted to the living teaching office of the Church alone. Its authority in this matter is exercised in the name of Jesus Christ.”47 This means that the task of interpretation has been entrusted to the bishops in communion with the successor of Peter, the Bishop of Rome.
86 “Yet this Magisterium is not superior to the Word of God, but is its servant. It teaches only what has been handed on to it. At the divine command and with the help of the Holy Spirit, it listens to this devotedly, guards it with dedication and expounds it faithfully. All that it proposes for belief as being divinely revealed is drawn from this single deposit of faith.”48
87 Mindful of Christ’s words to his apostles: “He who hears you, hears me”,49 the faithful receive with docility the teachings and directives that their pastors give them in different forms.
553 Jesus entrusted a specific authority to Peter: “I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”287 The “power of the keys” designates authority to govern the house of God, which is the Church. Jesus, the Good Shepherd, confirmed this mandate after his Resurrection: “Feed my sheep.”288 The power to “bind and loose” connotes the authority to absolve sins, to pronounce doctrinal judgments, and to make disciplinary decisions in the Church. Jesus entrusted this authority to the Church through the ministry of the apostles289and in particular through the ministry of Peter, the only one to whom he specifically entrusted the keys of the kingdom.
What a comfort, a joy, and a strength to know that it is the Holy Spirit guiding the Church when it comes to teachings on faith and morals!
[A shorter version of this letter appeared in the Des Moines Register. Thanks to John Rozycki for allowing us to publish his full letter.]