Understanding Casti Connubii
One cannot understand the encyclical ‘Casti Connubii’, which reaffirms the Catholic Church’s constant teaching against contraception, unless one first understands why ‘Casti Connubii’ was written. In order to understand this, we must look to the years 1920 and 1930 and we must look to the Lambeth Conference of the Anglican church in those years. The Lambeth conference is an international gathering of protestant Anglican bishops and usually meets about every ten years to discuss matters pertaining to that faith.
Resolution number 68 of the Lambeth Conference of 1920 reads as follows.
“We utter an emphatic warning against the use of unnatural means for the avoidance of conception, together with the grave dangers – physical, moral, and religious – thereby incurred, and against the evils with which the extension of such use threatens the race. In opposition to the teaching which, under the name of science and religion, encourages married people in the deliberate cultivation of sexual union as an end in itself, we steadfastly uphold what must always be regarded as the governing considerations of Christian marriage. One is the primary purpose for which marriage exists – namely the continuation of the race through the gift and heritage of children; the other is the paramount importance in married life of deliberate and thoughtful self-control. We desire solemnly to commend what we have said to Christian people and to all who will hear.” (Resolution 68 Lambeth Conference 1920)
In Accord with Catholic Teaching
As can be seen, this resolution is in perfect accord with Catholic teaching and it shows us that the whole of Christendom was united on this issue in the year 1920. If the whole of Christendom was wrong on this issue, it would mean that either the Holy Ghost was not guiding Christian leaders, or that the Holy Ghost had erred in a matter of great moral importance. We know that God, in the person of the Holy Ghost cannot err, so that leaves us with two propositions. Those who taught that contraception was wrong, including those in the Catholic Church, were misguided and had not been following the inspirations of the Holy Ghost, or else they were indeed being led by the inspirations of the Holy Ghost for all of those years and their teaching condemning contraception was correct and in accordance with the Mind of God.
We now move to the year 1930, just ten years later, and to resolution number 15 of the Lambeth Conference of that year.
“Where there is a 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.” (Resolution 15 lambeth Conference 1930)
An Evil in 1920 is considered a Good in 1930
In 1920 the Lambeth Conference considered contraception to be a great evil and in 1930 they then permitted what they had previously considered a great evil, to be practiced by married couples in certain circumstances. Notice also the use of pious sounding language, which will be all too familiar to those Catholics who have been fighting against divorce, abortion, contraception, sex-education and the promotion of the same-sex agenda.
Evil is OK so long as it is committed in a Christian Way
This formerly grave evil is OK so long as the method of evil to be used, is ‘decided on ‘Christian principles’. In other words the premise now being proposed is that it is permissible to do what was formerly considered a grave evil, so long as it is done in the name of Christ! This deceptive language is the language that the serpent used to convince Eve to take the first bite from the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. It is a language that claims that it is possible to serve God whilst going against His commandments and against the teachings of the Church which Christ founded on this earth. It is a language which suggests that God does not really mean what He says, and that God is OK with certain sins so long as they are committed with good intent and with a clear conscience.
We see similar language being used today by those who are proposing Holy Communion for the divorced and civilly remarried without any abstention from the acts proper to marriage and by those who are also proposing blessings on the same-sex unions of men and women who live the homosexual lifestyle.
Pope Pius XI Rises to Defend Marriage & Family Life
Pope Pius XI was fully aware of the gravity of the situation and of the great evil that had just been unleashed against marriage by resolution number 15 of the Lambeth Conference of 1930. He responded in an Encyclical letter which was released on December 31st, 1930, ‘Casti Connubii’. He opens the Encyclical by lauding the sacrament of marriage.
“How great is the dignity of chaste wedlock, Venerable Brethren, may be judged best from this that Christ Our Lord, Son of the Eternal Father, having assumed the nature of fallen man, not only, with His loving desire of compassing the redemption of our race, ordained it in an especial manner as the principle and foundation of domestic society and therefore of all human intercourse, but also raised it to the rank of a truly and great sacrament of the New Law, restored it to the original purity of its divine institution, and accordingly entrusted all its discipline and care to His spouse the Church.” (Casti Connubii 1)
The Principle and Foundation of Domestic Society
Here the Pope reaffirms that sacramental marriage is the principle and foundation of domestic society and that guardianship over marriage has been entrusted to the Catholic Church. If we desire a healthy and wholesome society then we need to protect the sacramental nature of marriage which is under such severe attacks today. The Pope then tells us the necessary requirement for achieving this.
“In order, however, that amongst men of every nation and every age the desired fruits may be obtained from this renewal of matrimony, it is necessary, first of all, that men’s minds be illuminated with the true doctrine of Christ regarding it; and secondly, that Christian spouses, the weakness of their wills strengthened by the internal grace of God, shape all their ways of thinking and of acting in conformity with that pure law of Christ so as to obtain true peace and happiness for themselves and for their families.” (Casti Connnubii 2)
In the next paragraph Pope Pius XI gets to the heart of the problem which is that Christ’s teaching is being denied even within the Catholic church.
Depraved Morals Have Begun To Spread Even Amongst The Faithful
“Yet not only do We, looking with paternal eye on the universal world from this Apostolic See as from a watch-tower, but you, also, Venerable Brethren, see, and seeing deeply grieve with Us that a great number of men, forgetful of that divine work of redemption, either entirely ignore or shamelessly deny the great sanctity of Christian wedlock, or relying on the false principles of a new and utterly perverse morality, too often trample it under foot. And since these most pernicious errors and depraved morals have begun to spread even amongst the faithful and are gradually gaining ground, in Our office as Christ’s Vicar upon earth and Supreme Shepherd and Teacher We consider it Our duty to raise Our voice to keep the flock committed to Our care from poisoned pastures and, as far as in Us lies, to preserve it from harm.” (Casti Connubii 3)
Here we see the great solicitousness of this Pope for the ‘sheep’ under his care. He will not remain silent in the face of this great evil but will raise his voice to clearly proclaim what the Catholic church has always taught about marriage and family life. He will clearly denounce the errors that are being spread abroad and he will offer us the only solution with which it is possible to drive back the enemies of marriage.
Ignoring Casti Connubii has Damaged Marriages
We can see in our day, that just as Our Lady’s request at Fatima was ignored when she called for great army to pray the Rosary in order to prevent the second world war which eventually resulted in the brutal deaths of an estimated fifty to eighty thousand people, so too the enemies have gained ground in the battle against marriage because the entreaty’s of Pope Pius XI in ‘Casti Connubii’ were too quickly placed to one side. This has led to an ever-increasing avalanche of divorce in western civilisation with the resultant disorder and chaos that we see enveloping our society where men can become women and innocent babies can be killed and those who object to these evils are called haters.
Over the coming series of articles, we will go through this encyclical at great length in order to delve deeply into the many fruits it offers to us in the ongoing battle for sacramental marriage, a battle which Sr Lucia of Fatima claimed would be the final battle between Christ and the reign of satan. Readers will then be well prepared for our ‘Conference of Catholic Families’ in August.
© John Lacken 2018
These articles are free to download, to print and to distribute provided that authorship is acknowledged and contact details for the author are provided as follows.