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!