Rorate Caeli

A Jubilee worth remembering: Casti Connubii at 80

In this glorious day of the Epiphany, when the adoration of a Baby by strange noblemen from distant lands is remembered by us, we would like to remind every Catholic of one of the most important Encyclical letters of the 20th Century: Casti Connubii, signed on December 31, 1930, and published 80 years ago.

This encyclical is especially important to those converts who saw the beauty of the One True Faith from afar in its moral teachings long, much long actually, before even entertaining with any seriousness the notion of becoming Catholic.

In this Diamond Jubilee, we wish, once again, to thank particularly those "bishops" of the Anglican Communion who, assembled in the Lambeth Conference of 1930, had agreed that, in very exceptional circumstances, married couples could make some use of artificial contraception. The amazing text (which would be clearly considered exceedingly "conservative" by many today) is the following:

Where there is clearly felt moral obligation to limit or avoid parenthood, the method must be decided on Christian principles. The primary and obvious method is complete abstinence from intercourse (as far as may be necessary) in a life of discipline and self-control lived in the power of the Holy Spirit. Nevertheless in those cases where there is such a clearly felt moral obligation to limit or avoid parenthood, and where there is a morally sound reason for avoiding complete abstinence, the Conference agrees that other methods may be used, provided that this is done in the light of the same Christian principles. The Conference records its strong condemnation of the use of any methods of conception control from motives of selfishness, luxury, or mere convenience.

It was a first in the history of all self-declared Christian bodies and it sounded like a thunder throughout the West.

In the Catholic world, the eyes of those who had seen another step by the Anglicans in their self-demolition turned to the See of Peter. For the first (but not the last) time in the 20th century, an absurd decision by the Anglicans would force the Holy See to issue a fast response. The faithful did not have to wait for long: Pope Pius XI gave the Catholic (that is, the universal, perennial, and traditional) response to the problem:

"Since, therefore, openly departing from the uninterrupted Christian tradition some recently have judged it possible solemnly to declare another doctrine regarding this question, the Catholic Church, to whom God has entrusted the defense of the integrity and purity of morals, standing erect in the midst of the moral ruin which surrounds her, in order that she may preserve the chastity of the nuptial union from being defiled by this foul stain, raises her voice in token of her divine ambassadorship and through Our mouth proclaims anew: any use whatsoever of matrimony exercised in such a way that the act is deliberately frustrated in its natural power to generate life is an offense against the law of God and of nature, and those who indulge in such are branded with the guilt of a grave sin."
How useless are the "solemn" declarations of those communities separated from Peter! How disastrous were the inevitable consequences of Lambeth 1930 for families, social order, and social mores!

"Ah, but Catholics had to wait until the 'Theology of the Body' to see marriage truly appreciated beyond reproduction," some of those ignorant of Church History say. This is said especially by those who believe that the Church began circa 1965 -- but it is denied by the whole Tradition of Holy Mother Church. As Pius XI reminded his children in 1930, quoting the Catechism of the Council of Trent:

"This mutual molding of husband and wife, this determined effort to perfect each other, can in a very real sense, as the Roman Catechism teaches, be said to be the chief reason and purpose of matrimony, provided matrimony be looked at not in the restricted sense as instituted for the proper conception and education of the child, but more widely as the blending of life as a whole and the mutual interchange and sharing thereof."

December 31, 1930: truly another day of glory in the long history of the Church of Rome! In her is the unbroken Doctrine of the Faith, which cannot deceive or be altered. In this Church we can trust. Thank you, dear Anglicans, for the warning which forced the Mother of all Churches to pronounce, once again, her sweet words of Truth!


  1. Anonymous3:00 AM

    (("Ah, but Catholics had to wait until the 'Theology of the Body' to see marriage truly appreciated beyond reproduction," some ignorants say.))

    I believe the people you style "ignorants" make this point, not about marriage generally, but specifically about marital congress. That marital congress be valued for enhancing the interpersonal relationship between the spouses was an insight of theology of the body.

    (If you are trying to say that theology of the body is the same as Pius XI and the Roman Catechism, which are being extolled here, then why would you speak of it with apparent contempt? Seems inconsistent..)

  2. Anonymous8:20 AM

    Casti Connubii. Read it and cast Humanæ Vitæ aside. No need for H.V.: Casti Connubii was far better and covered the same ground, even though the subject was marriage, not contraception.

    There are three ends to marriage, not two; and the procreative end is primary, not secondary. While H.V. does not deny either of these points, nor does it proclaim them--and they need the clarity which C.C. gives to them.


  3. Where is the contempt?

  4. In the history of the Anglican and Roman Catholic Churches in the Philippines, the example and dissent of the Reverend John Staunton has been largely forgotten.

    Rev Staunton observed that the 1930 Lambeth statement on contraception was the start of Anglicanism's further separation from Catholicity. He became a Catholic priest soon after. Rev Staunton headed one of the most successful Christian missions in Southeast Asia.

    The 1930 Lambeth statement approximates the position of many Orthodox bishops today.

    You need not thank Anglican bishops for their decision on contraception. You should thank the Holy Spirit!

  5. Anonymous12:45 PM

    If only our Holy Father would speak this way today.

    While I am no rocket scientist, I'm not exactly brain dead either. And I am a professional communicator.

    Yet, for the life of me, I cannot understand half of what comes out of the Vatican.

  6. oremusrob1:27 PM

    Let us take a moment to give thanks and remember Pope Pius XI and all that he has bestowed to the faithful from the Chair of Peter. As they say in the Byzantine rite, "May his memory be eternal."

  7. Frederick Dempsey2:16 PM

    "Yet, for the life of me, I cannot understand half of what comes out of the Vatican."

    That was certainly true of JPII's writings, and is still true of various pronouncements from the bureacracy. But, I find Benedict XVI's writings to be beautiful, insightful and inspiring.

  8. Joe B3:01 PM

    "ANY use whatsoever of matrimony exercised in such a way that the act is deliberately frustrated in its natural power to generate life is an offense against the law of God and of nature, and those who indulge in such are branded with the guilt of a grave sin."

    Seems Natural Family Planning is right on the edge of this one, other than for grave reasons. I've read a condemnation of the NFP method in the early church, although I don't think it was condemned by a church-wide document.

    And I always had a problem with money being a grave reason, and money is THE reason used today.

  9. Seems Natural Family Planning is right on the edge of this one, other than for grave reasons.

    There is no deliberate frustration of the marital act in NFP, any more than there is when one or both of the partners is sterile.

  10. Anonymous5:52 PM

    "Yet, for the life of me, I cannot understand half of what comes out of the Vatican."

    Neither can I. After Paul VI, I am totally lost as to what they are saying. John Paul II was bad...really bad. I never have any idea what he is talking about. Fr. Stan Fortuna, however, says that each time he reads JPII's encyclicals, he gains a new insight.(?!)

    As for Benedict XVI, his writings read like the Second Vatican Council documents. Something there for everyone no matter what side of the theological fence you are on.

    Any word yet from the Vatican on this momentous anniversary? No?


  11. Anonymous6:10 PM

    Joe B:

    So people abuse a legitimate reason for something by stretching the definition of "legitimate"? Gee, what else is new in the world?

    The abuse of a thing does not destroy its use, and while we can condemn artificial contraception as a thing evil per se, how can we presume to judge the conscience of those employing a means like NFP that the Church has declared legitimate (with cautions) when we don't know their marital or family situation?

    By the way: why is it that when I read posts objecting to NFP (by which I mean going beyond the cautions that the Church itself has issued), it usually seems to be a layman? Would laywomen be so pernickety?

    Tom Byrne

  12. Joe B6:50 PM

    How can we judge?

    Maybe by the fruits? How's that birthrate workin for ya, US Catholics?

  13. Joe B8:01 PM

    DCS, that's why I said it's on the edge and not forbidden. The whole issue of limiting the number of children in marriage comes with restrictions ("for serious reasons"), and so must NFP be used with a caution that is largely ignored. When the 'abuse' becomes the norm, there is a problem somewhere and I find the pro-NFP crowd to be blind to that elephant.

    Kind of like the Novus Ordo.

  14. Pius XI - one of the most underrated popes of modern times. And not just because of this encyclical.

  15. Anonymous9:22 PM

    I've always considered Pius XI the greatest pope of the XXth century - even to the expense of St. Sarto, who sadly turned the key in the ignition of liturgical destruction.

    I suggest prayer of intercession to this great pope, for the eventual election of a man called Burke.

    ~ Belloc

  16. Anonymous12:58 AM

    Joe B
    I think I agree with you.
    I suspect too many, even among trads, stretch the definition of 'grave reason' to arbitarily suit their own comfort. As i was once told by a very good parish priest (in relation to all things) 'Be generous with God'. We should never skimp in God's service. We must not look for an easy life. We should always be living so that we feel the pinch of hard labour for the salvation of ourselves or others, we should always strive to give more than we recieve. If we are married, we are not at liberty to dismiss the 'first' commandment 'Go forth and multiply and full the earth'. However, The primary end of marriage is Procreation AND education of children. It is not enough to bring children into the world, we must also raise them. Because of this we need to practice prudence regarding the size of our families so as not to place too great a burden on ourselves or our spouses. NFP can help with this for times when the burden is too heavy. Husbands in particular need to respect the health of their wives since they bear most of the physical burden. But NFP should NEVER be seen as a way of life as TOBists seem to proclaim. I believe the correct attitude is one of sacrifice, we must be willing to suffer and it is only through our sacrifices, made for the love of God, that we will raise our children to the correct quantity and quality required for Heaven's plans.

  17. Anonymous4:02 AM

    Theology of the body will quietly be forgotten soon enough. I love the 'mutual molding' language of C.C. why does it seem that everything coming out of the holy see before VII was of a much higher, less verbose quality than after?

  18. Anonymous2:35 PM

    And the attitude towards children seems to have changed in official documents. No longer are large Catholic families praised and the love within them showcased, but the discussions all seem to be defensive - try not having as many children this way, or here are OK reasons for not having as many.

    Having witnessed the beauty of a large Catholic family first hand complete with stay-at-home Mom and homeschooling, and having been around a number of them in trad circles for the past twelve years, I now see what my dearly departed wife and I missed out on, having "only" three. Of course, there is usually some sacrifice in lifestyle and materialism, but overall there is a huge gain in love and joy. When I see four year olds lovingly holding one year olds at mass, I know those parents are loving life.

    Just be warned, though, it is said that it takes a bare minimum of five children to get that unique large family dynamic. But don't worry - you don't get them all at once, and by the time you get there, you will have grown into it.

  19. Paul VI had to issue HV because he had called together a "panel of experts" to advise him on contraception. He opened Pandora's Box and then had to try to close it. The forces of evil had been emboldened by his waffling however and we see the results today.


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