I've gone round and round with my mom about this topic more times than I care to recount, but I was gratified to see this piece featured on CNA earlier this week, because it points out a rather obvious defect which deeply wounded the Church these past 4 decades, but which is often ignored or unacknowledged by those who rail against her failure to preach the Gospel of Life.
As the article indicates, the majority of our priests have indeed been too silent on matters of contraception and sins against life. But I'd like to highlight what's not mentioned; namely, the reality that throughout all the poor catechetical formation many adult Catholics received at home and in their schools... sitting beside them were the majority of the priests who serve the Church today.
So what does this mean for us? It means an entire generation or two of adult Catholics (read: priests AND laity) came of age during a time of moral confusion, contradiction and poorly-communicated Catholic teaching. However pitifully our priests have failed to communicate the teachings of Humane Vitae from the pulpit these past 40 years, the fault is not completely theirs.
The formation they received at home and in the seminary was probably no better than that which has informed the consciences of the 90-something percent of adult practicing Catholics today who choose to live in open dissent from the Church's teachings on contraception. Does this excuse our spiritual fathers from their duty to form and shepherd their flock? By no means! But does it explain some of the deafening silence from the pulpit for these past decades? You bet.
It's one of the reasons that Theology of the Body is so necessary, and not just for married couples, but for all Catholics, for all persons. There is a fundamental disconnect in the modern human psyche, a great divorce which has severed our understanding of our very selves as bodies and souls, as bodies with souls. The great modern mistake is not to think too much of the body, as some puritanical prudish types might insist, but to think too little of it. We have been fed a dangerous lie indeed, one which insists that our actions need not match our intentions, and that we can somehow separate our mental and spiritual existences from the physical realm.
This is what the practice of contraception shouts from the rooftops: "I am in control, and my intention determines the reality of my actions." The actions themselves are meaningless, until and unless I inform them.
Can you see the arrogance? The asininity? The utter falsity of such a way of living? To presume that "I can, because I will it to be so" is to presume equality with God... and by so doing, reject His "version" of reality for one which better suits that which you have determined to be "right for you."
Our priests aren't alone in having fallen into this deadly way of thinking. Neither are they excused, however, from crawling back out of the pit and leading their congregations with them. Let's pray for our priests, and particularly for those who are currently studying and undergoing their priestly formation, that another generation doesn't slip through the cracks without hearing - and being equipped to proclaim - the truth.