This corrected post originally ran 14 May 2014. But given rumblings in the Church, that it is Lent, and the importance of the message to all of us, it is being re-run.
Theories are useful to explain and to predict. But it is only true theories that give correct explanations for skillful predictions.
Two obvious examples. If you say the sun will peek above the horizon at 6:32:17 AM because gravitational theory says it will, and the sun does its duty, your theory has something going for it, especially because your theory makes lots of accurate predictions. And if you say, and say each year for three decades, that the planet’s global average temperature will soar to “unprecedented” heights, yet the temperature misbehaves and stays put, you’re theory is likely false.
Now how about these predictions, made in 1968, on what would happen were contraception to be embraced (which, of course, it has been). Widespread and normalized contraception will:
- “[O]pen wide the way for marital infidelity and a general lowering of moral standards”. Nailed it.
- Especially in the young, “[A] man who grows accustomed to the use of contraceptive methods may forget the reverence due to a woman”. Yep.
- The man will “reduce [the woman] to being a mere instrument for the satisfaction of his own desires”. True.
- He will “no longer considering her as his partner whom he should surround with care and affection.” On the money.
- “Finally, careful consideration should be given to the danger of this power passing into the hands of those public authorities who care little for the precepts of the moral law. Who will blame a government which in its attempt to resolve the problems affecting an entire country resorts to the same measures as are regarded as lawful by married people in the solution of a particular family difficulty?” Oh my, oh my, is that one right.
- “Who will prevent public authorities from favoring those contraceptive methods which they consider more effective?” None, that’s who: another hit.
- “Should [the government] regard this as necessary, they may even impose their use on everyone.” Recall the Obamacare mandates, anybody?
- “It could well happen, therefore, that when people, either individually or in family or social life, experience the inherent difficulties of the divine law and are determined to avoid them, they may give into the hands of public authorities the power to intervene in the most personal and intimate responsibility of husband and wife.” Dude: that’s prescience.
Take it from me, contraception is a great evil from which only pain and regret are found, and if you use them, the sooner you repent of it, the better off you will be. But who is this guy, this sage, who, drawing from some theory, foretold the world of 2014 [and now 2018] so accurately? Well, his name was Paul, and as he came from a long line of Pauls in the same Institution to which he was appointed Leader, he called himself Number 6. One thing we know, given his batting average, we should accord the theory which created these predictions pretty high weight.
Now rumor has it Number 6 did not actually write the predictions; another man did. But Number 6 was Boss, and he put his name to them; he authorized and made them official. That makes him responsible for them.
The most fascinating thing about these predictions is how they came to be made. What happened was this. Number 6’s predecessor called on a Commission of experts, who met and deliberated from 1963 to 1966 (Number 6 boosted Commission membership halfway through), giving a report to Number 6 two years before he made his predictions. Nobody was in any rush.
The Commission was loaded with sober academics and had the support of a good portion of the leadership of Number 6’s Institution. Word leaked out, as word always leaks out, about the Commission’s efforts and opinions, and this excited popular and media interest. The Commission, not wanting to be on the “wrong side of history”, favored contraception. After all, this was a different world than that world which came before this world: or something.
After several years of glowing expectations, most expected Number 6 to endorse the Commission’s report. He did not.
Boy, did tempers flare! To say the free-for-all crowd were displeased is a massive understatement. Number 6 and his Institution were ridiculed in the press and in academia and, indeed, by some leaders in Number 6’s Institution. One academic member of the Commission called Number 6’s predictions “that horrible document.” A prominent leader in Number 6’s Institution publicly charged Number 6 with “an anti-collegial act”. Ouch.
That angry fellow was far from alone. Many other leaders and groups of leaders castigated Number 6 openly. These dissidents went so far as to tell the common folk to ignore Number 6 and do what they please. And they did. And where and when they did do as they pleased, it was found that the Institution lost members.
Of course, it is not often remembered among critics that Number 6’s theory made stunningly accurate predictions, whereas his not-so-collegial enemies’ theories made inaccurate ones.
The reason for that digression is important because again Number 6’s Institution will meet to discuss matters pertaining to human sexuality and the family. The meeting will go for at least two years. Experts will be confided in. Reports will be written.
As before, the press and a sizable chunk of leadership is on the side of liberalization; they particularly favor giving the nod to divorce but also to so-called same-sex marriage and perhaps even abortion. The world has changed, these people say, and therefore the Institution must also change—to become something that is not the Institution.
The Institution’s new leader Francis is being groomed by the liberalizers as the man with the plan, as somebody who is willing to set aside the old truths for new ones.
My guess, working within Number 6’s theory, is whichever leader is in charge after the family synod is over will support tradition. The ban on contraception will be upheld. Marriage will be, as it can only be, declared to be between one man and one woman. Sodomy will still be a sin. Divorce will still be forbidden and not supported in the Institution’s activities. Abortion, if mentioned, will still be condemned.
The howling which will greet the announcement that there cannot be new truths, but only Truth, will be wondrous to behold, especially since, as before, liberalizers expect the vote to go with them. New dissidents will arise who, again as before, will tell people to ignore official proclamations and do what they want.
What will happen to rebellious families is obvious: more of what Number 6 said, a decrease in interest in marriage, increased state control over all things sexual, recognition that children belong to the state and not “parents”, and because of the dissolution of the family, an increase in support of euthanasia.
And people, even seeing the accuracy of these predictions, will still largely disbelieve the theory.
Update 14 May. It’s coincidence day at WMBriggs.com: Are Our Relationships Threatening The State?
Update 18 October 2014. Not that I want to brag, but it looks like the Truth Theory is still holding strong. But what a week!
The question is whether, after the conclusion of next year’s synod, Pope Francis will emulate his brother Number 6, or will he seek more worldly pastures?
I predict the former, in the following sense. I say Tradition holds, whether Pope Francis wants it to or not. It won’t matter what he or what anybody else wants, sin will still be sin. Doctrine will remain unchanged. Now, how will this Great Continuance happen? I have no idea. But I am reminded of the tale of Arius, a bishop who led one of the Church’s earliest heresies, a man whose power of convincing other Church fathers waxed and waned, but which never deserted him, and who, on his way to a final crucial meeting where he might have convinced others of his fallacy, had this happen to him:
It was then Saturday, and Arius was expecting to assemble with the church on the day following: but divine retribution overtook his daring criminalities. For going out of the imperial palace, attended by a crowd of Eusebian partisans like guards, he paraded proudly through the midst of the city, attracting the notice of all the people. As he approached the place called Constantine’s Forum, where the column of porphyry is erected, a terror arising from the remorse of conscience seized Arius, and with the terror a violent relaxation of the bowels: he therefore enquired whether there was a convenient place near, and being directed to the back of Constantine’s Forum, he hastened thither. Soon after a faintness came over him, and together with the evacuations his bowels protruded, followed by a copious hemorrhage, and the descent of the smaller intestines: moreover portions of his spleen and liver were brought off in the effusion of blood, so that he almost immediately died. The scene of this catastrophe still is shown at Constantinople, as I have said, behind the shambles in the colonnade: and by persons going by pointing the finger at the place, there is a perpetual remembrance preserved of this extraordinary kind of death.
The answer thus comes via Peter Kreeft, who is fond of quoting a Southern Baptist minister who managed to sum up the lessons of the Bible in four words. “I’m God. You’re not.”