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Reactions by Fr Vincent Twomey to article by Roberto de Mattei.

The following article-:

Roberto de Mattei: A history of revolutions and their consequences for the family
May 18, 2017

....has promoted me to ask Fr Vincent Twomey to give a reaction which he has kindly done - please see below. (Mark Alder)

The following are a few random comments by Fr Twomey on the above article by Professor Roberto de Mattei.

Hardly anyone will doubt his contention that the family - and more specifically, procreation - is under unprecedented attack at present - and has been for centuries. The Sexual Revolution of 1968 was a most vicious attack. But was it the most violent? Perhaps. Certainly what it led to (IVF and gender theory) is so.. And indeed, ever since Pope Leo XIII's
Arcanum, the Church's teaching authority has defended procreation and the family - culminating in Paul VI's Humanae Vitae at the height of the Sexual Revolution, which Professor de Mattei does not even mention.

Many heretical sects (but not all, as de Mattei claims) did indeed embrace sexual licence and attacked procreation, such as the Cathars (Albigenians), not mentioned in the article. Indeed, St Paul himself had to contend with the early Christians in Corinth misunderstanding sexual licence for Christian liberty. And de Mattei is also right to highlight such pseudo-mystics as Joachim of Fiore as the origin of those spiritualist movements in the Middle Ages that bear striking similarities to the more extreme versions of heretical movements in the following centuries. Indeed, some political theorists see in Joachim's speculations the (Gnostic) origin of the very notion of revolution. De Mattei is also absolutely correct, when he writes: "
The act of procreation is the object of anti-Christian hate, because this affirms that man has an end which surpasses him. The negation of procreation turns Christian morals upside down and affirms a Gnostic metaphysical principle: sex as an ultimate end of man, closed up in its own immanence." However, de Mattei seems to present the history of attacks on procreation from the mediaeval period up to the present in quasi-Hegelian terms, as though they culminated in 1968 - with Vatican II as the penultimate stage.

Where I disagree with him most profoundly is precisely here: his treatment of the Second Vatican Council. As Roger Charles SJ showed, the Council, though it avoided the traditional terminology of "the ends of marriage", did affirm that procreation as the primary good or purpose of marriage (see his book: The social teaching of Vatican II, pp. 138-139). Indeed Pope Francis in
Amoris Latitia #80 refers to the Council's teaching, when he states that "the conjugal union is ordered to procreation 'by its very nature' (Gaudium et Spes, #48)". It is true that some highly influential theologians denied this and yet claimed to be following the teaching of Gaudium et Spes on marriage and the family, which for the first time in magisterial teaching incorporated the notion of conjugal love into the theology of marriage. But they interpreted the text to suit their own more "personalist" (i.e., subjectivist) approach along the lines indicated by de Mattei in his article.. The Council cannot be blamed. The same theologians were most vocal in their dissent from Humanae Vitae. It is true that the Council rejected an earlier draft on moral theology (which I presume is the text de Mattei refers to in his article), but it had to do so, since it was expressed in legalistic terms that, to put it mildly, were no longer fit-for-purpose (as Joseph Ratzinger recognized at the time). The drama of the past half-century within the Church revolve around the efforts (initially disastrous) to forge a new approach to moral theology, one that is closer to that of St Thomas Aquinas - based on virtue not on law. I deal with all of this in my own little book, Moral Theology after Humanae Vitae. What de Mattei (and indeed many who are most vocal in their critique of Amoris Laetitia) failed to note is that Pope Francis in Amoris Laetitia has forged his own theological synthesis based on the teachings of Blessed Paul VI, St John Paul II, and Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI - see in particular Chapter Five (Love made Fruitful), which together with the previous Chapter the Pope himself claims are the most important of the whole Apostolic Exhortation. I wish both the critics and the more vocal advocates of AL would pay less attention to Chapter Eight (and the battle of the footnotes) and more to Chapters Four and Five.

But what must be vehemently rejected is the contention that: "
We did not arrive at Pope Francis' Exhortation Amoris laetitia (2016) in a single day. Fifty years were necessary, but the roots are there, in the Second Vatican Council. And the Council didn't do anything except search for a compromise between the doctrine of the Church and the anti-Christian theories of the modern Cultural Revolution." The implication here is that Vatican II compromised the truth about marriage and the family (among other things), and so opened a breach in the wall erected by Church teaching against the Gnostic attacks on procreation and the family, which breach Amoris Laetitia finally broadened to allow such evil enter the Church. This, it seems to me, is to imply that the gates of hell have indeed prevailed over the dominical promise to St Peter. There is no doubt but that the majority of mainstream moral theologians (as they like to call themselves) did compromise the truth after Vatican II, but the Papal Magisterium has stood firm again such compromises - and that, in my opinion, includes Pope Francis's Apostolic Exhortation properly understood.

Copyright © D. Vincent Twomey 2017

Version: 22th May 2017

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