From Lambeth to the Land of Nod | John S. Hamlon | CWR
Catholic teaching on contraception will always be a "sign of contradiction" and it will always point to an inconvenient, counter-cultural truth: more contraception means more divorce and more abortion.
In his preface to A Man for All Seasons, playwright Robert Bolt describes protagonist Thomas More as
a man with an adamantine sense of his own self. He knew where he began and left off… but at length he was asked to retreat from that final area where he located his self. And there this supple, humorous, unassuming and sophisticated person… was overtaken by an absolutely primitive rigor, and could no more be budged than a cliff.
“Adamantine”—unyielding, impervious, diamond-like—befits the real Thomas More who, as councilor to King Henry VIII, was convicted of treason and beheaded in 1535. He would not sign the First Succession Act, which was anti-papal authority, anti-Catherine of Aragon (including daughter Mary—fathered by Henry VIII), and pro-Princess Elizabeth (still in Anne Boleyn’s womb).
At the formal Catholic level, More is the patron of statesmen and politicians; in the pews, he is a defender of marriage and family.
The Beauty of Marriage and Family—Anglican Style
The Anglican bishops at the Lambeth Conference of 1920 were also diamond-like. Compared to the grimy, banal, all-purpose language used today, they spoke of marriage with an eloquence and directness that is, in a word, lustrous:
The fellowship between man and woman in marriage was the earliest which God gave to the human race…. What our Lord adds about marriage is not given as new legislation, but as a declaration of God's original purpose. The man and his wife are no longer twain, but one flesh: and those whom God has joined together, man is not to put asunder…. [God] will work, as those who wait for Him well know, the miracle by which the two lives become one, yet so that each life becomes greater and better than it could have been alone. (Lambeth Conferences—1867-1930; [SPCK, 1948], 29)
By contrast, the Catholic world—up until the watershed-year 1968—saw few lines about the unifying woof in the warp and woof of marriage. In Pius XI’s Casti Connubii (1930), for example, love’s primary purpose is to help husband and wife form and perfect their interior life so “they may advance ever more and more in virtue, and above all that they may grow in true love toward God and their neighbor” (23). In order of emphasis, Pius XI puts procreation first, conjugal honor (based on mutual fidelity) second, and spousal love third.
But the Anglican bishops, having set the stage with the “oneness” of marriage, continue with the importance of procreation: