Moral theologian at Rome conference debunks new book defying Church teaching on contraception – LifeSite

(LifeSiteNews) – Dr. John Haas, a former member of the Pontifical Academy for Life and president emeritus of the National Bioethics Center, delivered a speech last Saturday in Rome, in which he took on recent moves to undermine the Church’s teaching on intrinsically evil acts, especially with regard to contraception.

The May 19-20 conference organized by the Jérôme Lejeune International Chair of Bioethics took place at the Augustinianum Patristic Institute, and among its speakers where high-ranking prelates of the Church, such as Cardinal Luis Ladaria (Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith), and Cardinal Matteo Zuppi (head of the Italian bishops’ conference). The conference, which was entitled “’My body, my choice…’ Humanae Vitae: the audacity of an encyclical on sexuality and procreation” discussed the papal encyclical Humanae Vitae by Pope Paul VI and its implications for today.

Dr. Haas’ speech was delivered on May 20 and was entitled “The beauty of Humanae Vitae 50 years on and its future challenges.” Dr. Haas kindly provided LifeSite with a copy of his presentation.

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We ask you to join us in thanking this faithful shepherd for his years of loving service to Christ and His Church. 

Bishop Thomas Tobin of the Diocese of Providence, RI, known for his outspoken defense of the Church’s moral teachings on the sanctity of life, marriage, and human sexuality, has just resigned upon reaching the age of 75 on April 1.

SIGN: Thank you Bishop Tobin for answering God’s call to serve His Church

Here is our message to Bishop Tobin which you can sign: 

In a statement to the diocese on the occasion of his resignation, Bishop Tobin thanked the faithful and clergy of Providence for their support over the years, encouraging them to remain steadfast in the faith. “I urge all the members of the church to remain steadfast in your faith, to be proud of the good work you are doing, and to be determined to carry on the work that Jesus has entrusted to you,” Tobin said. 

As bishop, Tobin consistently raised his voice to clearly reiterate the perennial teachings of the Church that the life of the unborn is sacred, marriage is a lifelong union between one man and one woman, and the innocence of children must be protected in society.

He has also defended traditional Catholics who wish to worship according to the Church’s ancient liturgy in the Tridentine Latin Mass. 

Unafraid to hold to account so-called “Catholic” politicians who aggressively promote abortion and oppose the protection of the lives of the unborn, in 2019 Tobin excoriated Rhode Island Sen. Jack Reed, who says he is Catholic but voted against the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Act, designed to protect children born alive during botched abortions from being left to die.   

In the lead-up to the 2020 presidential election, Tobin called out the contradiction between a politician calling himself Catholic and yet rejecting Catholic teaching on the sanctity of life. In a tweet sent out on May 7, 2020, Tobin said one cannot be an “authentic” Catholic and hold a pro-abortion position. 

“Just saw a headline in a Catholic newspaper with the phrase ‘pro-abortion Catholic.’ Sorry. That’s a contradiction in terms. You can’t be a Catholic, at least not an authentic one, and be ‘pro-abortion.’ Or ‘pro-choice.’ It’s the same thing,” the bishop said

SIGN: Thank you Bishop Tobin for answering God’s call to serve His Church

Several months later Tobin again sparked a heated Twitter debate over what constitutes a Catholic when he sarcastically implied that then-presidential candidate Joe Biden isn’t one. The outspoken bishop was hammered on Twitter with ad hominem attacks after he posted the following:  

Biden-Harris. First time in a while that the Democratic ticket hasn’t had a Catholic on it. Sad. 

— Bishop Thomas Tobin (@ThomasJTobin1) August 11, 2020 

Tobin doubled down on his criticisms of President Biden’s zeal for abortion in 2022, when he stated that he could not be “both a devout Catholic and a pro-abortion zealot”: 

President Biden cannot be both a devout Catholic and a pro-abortion zealot. The two are mutually exclusive. He is a poor, lost and confused soul. Truly, we need to pray for him, everyday. 

— Bishop Thomas Tobin (@ThomasJTobin1) September 23, 2022 

Tobin’s courageous defense of the Church’s moral teachings was not limited, however, to standing up against the prominent pro-abortion advocates of the Left. He also earned their hatred with his public stance against LGBT ideology and intimidation. 

On June 1, 2019, to mark the beginning of so-called “pride month”, the Rhode Island bishop tweeted that Catholics should not take part in “pride” events due to their conflict with the Catholic faith, making special note of the danger to children: 

A reminder that Catholics should not support or attend LGBTQ “Pride Month” events held in June. They promote a culture and encourage activities that are contrary to Catholic faith and morals. They are especially harmful for children. 

— Bishop Thomas Tobin (@ThomasJTobin1) June 1, 2019 

The public stance made the bishop the target of high-volume vitriol from LGBT adherents and supporters, who moved swiftly to squash the Catholic shepherd’s advisory to his flock to remain faithful to “Catholic faith and morals,” demonstrating the resolve of anti-Catholic forces to silence Church teaching. 

Several days later, Tobin issued the following statement, declaring it his obligation as a bishop to preach the truth of Christ “even on very difficult and sensitive issues”, affirming that he would continue to do so. He stated, “As a Catholic Bishop, however, my obligation before God is to lead the faithful entrusted to my care and to teach the faith, clearly and compassionately, even on very difficult and sensitive issues.  That is what I have always tried to do – on a variety of issues – and I will continue doing so as contemporary issues arise.” 

SIGN: Thank you Bishop Tobin for answering God’s call to serve His Church

Ever sensitive to the needs of the flock entrusted to this care, Tobin also supported those Catholics devoted to the ancient liturgy in the Traditional Latin Mass. In January 2022, during the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, he encouraged “respect and support” for “members of our own Church who are devoted to [the] TLM,” affirming their fidelity to the Church, a notable public defense in the face of attacks from authorities in Rome, such as Cardinal Roche, who has dubbed those who love the ancient Mass “more Protestant than Catholic.”  

In contrast, Bishop Tobin wrote: 

In this Week of Prayer for #ChristianUnity, let’s also work to safeguard and promote “Catholic Unity.” In particular, let’s resolve to respect and support members of our own Church who are devoted to TLM. They are faithful Catholics who greatly love the Lord and his Church. 

— Bishop Thomas Tobin (@ThomasJTobin1) January 18, 2022 

Again, earlier this year, Tobin criticized the increased ostracization of traditional Catholics by Rome in a tweet that contrasted the heavy-handedness of the Vatican’s restrictions with the Pope’s call for accompaniment and listening. The prelate wrote,  

The way the Vatican is dealing with the Traditional Latin Mass does not seem to me to be the “style of God.” Pope Francis himself has emphasized that those who are attached to the TLM should be “accompanied listened to, and given time.” 

— Bishop Thomas Tobin (@ThomasJTobin1) February 21, 2023 

With the courageous Bishop of Providence now retiring, the sentiments of Catholics grateful for his defense of life, family, and faith can perhaps not be put better than what was stated by those same Catholics several years ago: “Your clear and compassionate teaching gives hope to Catholics and Christians everywhere.”  

In the words of Bishop Strickland, “Thanks for speaking up Bishop Tobin….let us be mighty loving messengers of truth and light in Jesus Christ.” 

SIGN: Thank you Bishop Tobin for answering God’s call to serve His Church


Bishop Thomas Tobin retires at age 75 – LifeSiteNews

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In his speech, the American theologian in part takes on a 2022 book, On Theological Ethics of Life, published by the Pontifical Academy for Life which had been the cause of much controversy since it appeared to argue in favor of certain forms of contraception.

Haas returns to this book right at the beginning of his speech:

Last year a book was published by a Vatican editorial house that called into question the Church’s teaching on contraception. The editor of the book wrote of contraception: “The wise choice will be realized by appropriately evaluating all possible techniques with reference to their specific situation and obviously excluding abortifacient ones.” [Etica Theologica della Vita, ed. Vincenzo Paglia, Pontifical Academy for Life.]

But for Dr. Haas, it is clear that “there is no ‘wise choice’ with contraception. I would like to show why contraception is unreasonable and why it inevitably leads to abortion. Allow me to make use of philosophy which ultimately is refined common sense.” In defense of the Church’s traditional stance against contraception, this moral theologian insists: “The use of contraception by married couples has always been considered morally illicit by the Church. Indeed, it can quite convincingly be argued that it has been infallibly taught by the Church.”

In order to argue on the basis of reason on why the Church’s traditional teaching is entirely reasonable, Dr. Haas quotes from the 1917 Code of Canon Law which defined marriage in terms of the ends of marriage: “The primary end of marriage is the procreation and education of children; the secondary end is mutual support and a remedy for concupiscence.”

Explains Dr. Haas: “Marriage is defined in terms of its own inherent ends toward which it is naturally ordered and which, thereby, tell us what it is.”

The good of marriage, and the end of it, is the procreation of new life. Dr. Haas insists that one may not depart from this truth as also taught by Humanae Vitae. “The human person cannot break the bond between the unitive and procreative ends of marriage,” Haas says in light of that encyclical, “since they constitute the very definition of what marriage is. And man and woman are naturally drawn to those ends precisely because they are good.”

Further pointing out the evil of contraception as a violation of the end of marriage, the moral theologian goes on to state:

Now, human beings are not obliged to realize all the goods of which they are capable; it would be impossible. However, they do have an obligation never to act against a good as though it were an evil because that would be unreasonable; it would violate their very nature. To act against a good as though it were an evil would violate synderesis, the first principle of human action, “Do good; avoid evil”.  It is here, I believe, that one encounters the immorality, the unreasonableness, the disorder of contraception.

Dr. Haas does not shy away from calling contraception evil: “Contraception always involves an act other than the marital act, and that other act is directed specifically against one of the goods (or ends) which actually make sense of the marital act, i.e., the procreative good, the child. The name of the act itself describes its malice; it is contra, against, the procreative good.”

In light of this teaching and truth, Dr. Haas then returns to Archbishop Paglia’s introduction to the 2022 Vatican book and specifically his quote on contraception and rejects Paglia’s claim:

Are all these the kinds of techniques [of contraception] which ought to be weighed, as the editor [of the 2022 book] quoted before said, in order to lead us to make a “wise” choice about contraception? But each of these actions is different from, other than, the marital act, and each has no other purpose than to be directed against the realization of one of the ends or goods that make sense of, indeed make possible, the marital act.

Dr. Haas also makes clear the “inextricable link between contraception and abortion.”

“If we consistently act against the procreative good inherent in the marital act as though it were an evil,” he explains, “when it does appear, despite our best efforts, we take action to eliminate it.” When one tries to avoid life, and when it does come to us, one sees then the need to kill it. States Haas: “That action, of course, has come to be abortion. It is a natural sequel to induced sterility if the sterility fails and the evil of fertility manifests itself.”

‘To accept the morality of contraception is virtually to accept a false understanding of the human person which leads to the support of other aberrant behaviors which undermine human flourishing.’

Dr. Haas also sees the logical consequence of a teaching that makes exceptions when it comes to intrinsically evil acts: “I am not suggesting that there is a slippery slope from contraception to abortion. I am maintaining that when one can morally justify the commission of an intrinsically evil act, which the Church has always taught contraception is, we are already at the bottom of the slope and virtually any act can be justified,” he insists.

If we make an exception on the question of contraception, why not on other matters, as well?

“To accept the morality of contraception,” the moral theologian concludes, “is virtually to accept a false understanding of the human person which leads to the support of other aberrant behaviors which undermine human flourishing.”

Making here a strong stand against an attempt at relativizing the Church’s ban on contraception, Dr. Haas expounds at the end of his presentation that “one challenge to Humanae vitae now and in the future is certainly the trivialization of the immorality of contraception, as though it could be a ‘wise decision,’ whereas it is the very gateway to an anti-life mentality and the horrors of abortion.”

It might be worth noting that Archbishop Paglia, in an interview with Vatican News about Humanae Vitae in light of the recent May 19-20 conference on this encyclical, insisted on incorporating and “updating” Humanae Vitae with the help of Amoris Laetitia. He said: “What I would like to see is an approach that integrates Humanae Vitae with the encyclicals of Pope Francis (and St. John Paul II) and with Amoris Laetitia, and that opens up a new era of integral humanism.”

Thus, Dr. John Haas’ speech on this matter of the immorality of contraception is pointing us right back to these very fundamental questions of the Church’s moral teaching. The undermining of the teaching on intrinsically evil acts seems to be a linchpin of the current situation in the Church: if this “radical paradigm shift” successfully takes place and is being implemented, anything goes and no moral law will remain standing.

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Dr. Maike Hickson was born and raised in Germany. She holds a PhD from the University of Hannover, Germany, after having written in Switzerland her doctoral dissertation on the history of Swiss intellectuals before and during World War II. She now lives in the U.S. and is married to Dr. Robert Hickson, and they have been blessed with two beautiful children. She is a happy housewife who likes to write articles when time permits.

Dr. Hickson published in 2014 a Festschrift, a collection of some thirty essays written by thoughtful authors in honor of her husband upon his 70th birthday, which is entitled A Catholic Witness in Our Time.

Hickson has closely followed the papacy of Pope Francis and the developments in the Catholic Church in Germany, and she has been writing articles on religion and politics for U.S. and European publications and websites such as LifeSiteNews, OnePeterFive, The Wanderer, Rorate Caeli,, Catholic Family News, Christian Order, Notizie Pro-Vita, Corrispondenza Romana,, Der Dreizehnte,  Zeit-Fragen, and Westfalen-Blatt.