Thursday, May 12, 2011

The Birth Control Debate in the 1960's and the Birth Control Commission-Highly Recommended Reading

This link,, on Dr. Germain Grisez's website takes the reader to a heroic tale of a great Jesuit, Fr. John Ford, SJ.  It is very informative and gives the reader an insider's look at the workings of the scholars, dissenters, as well as the heroes of the so-called Birth Control Commission.  It should be noted that not all who were on the wrong side of the commission went on to become dissenters who opposed the Church's constant teaching.

The Church's teaching on the sanctity of the marital act has been constant. Yet, a majority of the members of the commission were biased in favor of rejecting the Church's teaching and developed a way to explain that the Church could change her teaching.  They came up with a theory that was essentially pragmatic.  John Noonan developed an instrumentalist, pragmatic argument, based upon his legal training, which separated what he referred to as moral "rules" from values.  The values of the "rule" on contraception could be maintained and the teaching could change, he said.  His study was flawed and Grisez knew it.  Noonan, unlike some on the commission, came to accept Paul VI's reaffirmation of the constant teaching.

There is a well-documented history of the reform of legal theory based upon the theories of the pragmatic philosophers that dates back to William James and John Dewey. This influenced Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. and Roscoe Pound, key figures in the history of legal theory in this country, to turn the legal system and the courts into instruments of social engineering.  They used those very words.  They viewed every thing as changeable and they rejected the idea that any law was immutable. This is the educational climate that Noonan was trained in and this influenced his treatment of the history of the doctrine of contraception.  This is what he presented to the commission and the world in his book Contraception.

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