Over a decade ago, when I was still at University studying Theology, I remember learning about Pope Paul VI’s last Encyclical Humanae Vitae. The document was rather interesting between its history, teachings, and reception.
Concerning the history of this document, I learned that there was quite the lead-up to its publication. Pope John XXIII had established a study group to look at the question of Catholic doctrine on artificial contraception. John died, Paul VI succeeded him, and retained the study group. Meanwhile, there was a lot of buzz within the Catholic world that the Church was going to change its doctrine on artificial contraception. I was even told that priests were telling people in Confession to expect a change in the doctrine (with the obvious logical consequence that it was no longer a sin to use artificial contraception).
The findings from this group were to be drawn up in a dossier and sent to the Holy Father. In short, the study group recommended that the Church allow the use of artificial contraception. Unfortunately, we know that this was the recommendation from the study group because the dossier was leaked to the press (which greatly angered Paul VI, I recently read). The genie, as it were, was out of its bottle and people’s belief that the Church was going to change its doctrine on artificial contraception was reinforced.
Then came the publication of Humanae Vitae wherein Paul VI essentially rejected the study group’s recommendation and upheld the Church’s perennial teaching. Massive revolt ensued which, I was told, was the reason why Humanae Vitae was the last Encyclical written by Paul VI. The Church had a serious pastoral problem on its hand, the effects from which, arguably, we are still reeling.
What, you may be wondering, does the above have to do with Medjugorje?
The news has been all abuzz recently with Pope Francis’ recent revealing of the “guts” of the Ruini Commission’s findings. It was reported at the time that the Commission believed the first 7 apparitions were authentic, but not the later ones.
This morning, I read a news article dated July 23 (to which I shall not link lest I give any credibility to the site) that focused upon the Commission’s alleged recommendation that pilgrimages to Medjugorje be permitted. The July 23 article argued that if the Vatican had concerns about the later apparitions, then it would have to exercise caution about travel to Medjugorje.
The parallel lesson that I wish to make with Humanae Vitae is simple: don’t jump the gun. Consider the following:
- The Holy Father has issued no official judgment on Medjugorje,
- The 1991 Zadar Declaration is still in effect,
- Pilgrimages that presume a supernatural origin to the Medjugorje phenomenon are still not allowed.
We are Catholics, bound to obedience. If we violate that obedience then we sin and could very well imperil our eternal salvation. At the very least, we displease Our Lord Jesus Christ who we claim to serve.
Let us remember what Our Lady said at Fátima:
“Do not offend our Lord God any more, for He is already much offended.”
-Kevin J. Symonds