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Photo: Professor Josef Seifert speaks at a conference on Humanae Vitae in Rome last year (CNS)
The philosopher, a former member of St John Paul II’s pro-life academy, said that accepting Fr Chiodi’s remarks would be a ‘betrayal’
By Dan Hitchens, Catholic Herald, Jan. 12, 2018
The Catholic philosopher Josef Seifert, a former member of the Pontifical Academy for Life, has called on one of its new members to revoke his “grave errors” or resign.
Seifert was referring to Fr Maurizio Chiodi, who recently defended the use of artificial contraception.
In a lecture last month at the Pontifical University in Rome, Fr Chiodi reportedly said that there are “circumstances – I refer to Amoris Laetitia, Chapter 8 – that precisely for the sake of responsibility, require contraception.”
Church teaching forbids contraception under all circumstances. Pope Pius XI wrote that contraception is “intrinsically vicious” and that “the Divine Majesty regards with greatest detestation this horrible crime”. Pope Paul VI wrote in Humanae Vitae that “sexual intercourse which is deliberately contraceptive” is “to be absolutely excluded” and that “it is never lawful, even for the gravest reasons, to do evil that good may come of it”.
2018 marks the 50th anniversary of Humanae Vitae, and there has been speculation that Vatican theologians and officials may try to undermine its teaching.
According to Diane Montagna of LifeSiteNews, Fr Chiodi said: “an artificial method for the regulation of birth could be recognized as an act of responsibility that is carried out, not in order to radically reject the gift of a child but because in those situations, responsibility calls the couple and the family to other forms of welcome and hospitality.”
Fr Chiodi argued that “Technology, in certain circumstances, can make it possible to guard the responsible quality of the sexual act, even in the decision not to generate.”
When contacted by the Catholic Herald, Fr Chiodi did not deny making the remarks but said he preferred not to comment.
According to the newspaper L’Avvenire, Fr Chiodi claimed in 2008 that “the use of artificial birth control techniques can be moral”. He was quoted as saying that “the moral norm on responsible procreation can not coincide with the biological observance of natural methods”. Fr Chiodi, as the newspaper paraphrased his opinion, believes that “It is not the method itself that determines the morality, but the conscience of the spouses, their sense of responsibility, their genuine willingness to open themselves to life.”
Fr Chiodi was appointed to the Pontifical Academy for Life last year when Pope Francis revamped the academy, removing almost 100 member and appointing 45 new ones.
Seifert, an Austrian philosopher and an associate of St John Paul II, said in a statement said that Fr Chiodi’s view was “in radical and direct contradiction to the teaching of the Magisterium of the Church”. It was a “central moral teaching”, Seifert said, “that a wonderful and deep link exists between the conjugal loving union and procreation, such that any single contraceptive act that separates the unitive from the procreative meaning of the conjugal act is intrinsically wrong in any situation.”
Seifert also drew attention to Fr Chiodi’s claim that the morality of contraception could not be determined “by a general rule”. If this principle were extended to other acts forbidden by Church teaching, Seifert argued, “the situation ethics Fr Chiodi defends would also deny the intrinsic wrongness of abortion and euthanasia, and of many other acts listed in [John Paul II’s] Veritatis Splendor as acts that are morally wrong under all circumstances and in all situations”.
Fr Chiodi’s arguments were, Seifert said, “profoundly erroneous and totally destructive not only of the moral teaching of the Catholic Church, but also of the essence of morality”.
Seiefrt said that he hoped that Pope Francis and members of the Pontifical Academy for Life, especially its president Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, “will ask Fr Chiodi to revoke these grave errors, or to resign immediately his membership in this illustrious Academy, whose founder and spiritual Father Pope John Paul II unambiguously and consistently fought against precisely these same errors that Father Chiodi now proposes, and condemned them in a definitive way.
“Moreover, Saint John Paul II founded the PAV precisely in order that it explain and defend these truths Chiodi denies.”
Seifert added that even the non-Catholic and non-Christian members of the academy might disagree with Fr Chiodi, since a belief in absolute moral prohibitions had been defended by philosophers such as Socrates, Plato and Cicero.
Before the reforms initiated by Pope Francis, all members of the academy had to take an oath to defend certain Church teachings. Having taken the oath, Seifert said he would feel “profound sadness” at the “betrayal” of the academy if Fr Chiodi’s views were not retracted by the priest himself, the academy or Pope Francis.