The atomic bomb that exploded in Hiroshima and Nagasaki caused irreparable damage in the moment that the bomb exploded, but even to this day vestiges and remnants of that catastrophic day, and its repercussions can be felt.
The moral-spiritual-ethical atomic bomb exploded one day and the day was July 25th , 1968! What and where and how was this bomb detonated? It was in the early years of the pontificate of Pope Paul VI, in a very explosive time in the history of the world. Students were rebelling in colleges, the sexual revolution was priming up, the hippies had made their appearance and the “Rock n’Roll” music of the Beatles, The Rolling Stones, and the Beach Boys were resounding loud and clear.
At the same time there were huge strides in science, among which was the discovery of “The Pill”. A “Pill” was discovered that could prevent the ovulation of the woman and thereby prevent the birth of a child. For many, this was perceived as a huge accomplishment for science, for humanity and for the sake of the whole world! Conception and the birth of children could simply be avoided by taking a pill with its chemical contents!
The Holy Father, Pope Paul VI, called together a consulting board to look into and to study the issue, the experts in this area of ethics and medicine, to eventually make a decision on this topic.
After the consultation had terminated, the Vicar of Christ, concluded the issue promulgating a Papal encyclical with the title, “Humanae Vitae" (On Human Life). In short, the Holy Father affirmed the centuries of teaching on human sexuality in clear and unequivocal terms. “Every conjugal act between husband and wife must be open to the possibility of life--- procreation, in which man and woman collaborate with God in bringing into existence a new person with an immortal soul. Therefore, any use of any artificial means of preventing conception, termed “Contraception” is intrinsically disordered! In other words, this act is morally unacceptable, put bluntly in catechetical terms, “A Mortal sin”. Never should contraception be allowed or permitted between a couple!
Behind the scene, as one of the mayor collaborators and consultants on this topic and the promulgation of the encyclical was a young, 48 year old Archbishop from Cracow, who had written spiritual literary masterpieces on the subject of human sexuality namely Love and responsibility and The Acting Person. We know this Archbishop as Blessed Pope John Paul II—“The Great!”
The moral-atomic bomb exploded throughout the world, especially in the first world countries. Europe did not take to the encyclical, but even less theologians and even Bishops in North America! Outright dissent, anger, rebellion, antagonism, antipathy, are a few words that express the attitude of many towards this statement of the Supreme Pontiff!
A key example was the prestigious catholic-priest-theologian in one of the most famous catholic universities in the country, Fr. Charles Curran, professor of Moral Theology in the Catholic University in Washington D.C, where Fulton Sheen had held a chair a few years earlier!
Curran objected, stating that this was not a pronouncement “De-fide”, a teaching only present in the Ordinary Magisterium and therefore, was not binding on conscience. In other words, individuals were free to “follow their conscience”. If it were the case that a couple felt it necessary to take advantage of the modern discovery of the “Pill”—contraception—then they were free to use it, under the stipulation that they were following “Their conscience”. In other words, the individual conscience is supreme and should reign over all!
Further north, in Canada, the “Winnipeg Document” was signed by many of the Canadian Bishops openly defying this teaching of the Holy Father and the Magisterial teaching of Humanae Vitae. Archbishop Fulton Sheen noted that the church is weak from within when there is division. This document divided the church into two camps: the minority (relatively few “anawin”) who maintain their fidelity to the Holy Father and his teachings; then there is the huge majority, who at whim and will decide for themselves what they believe to be the truth!
How can this situation of the majority choosing their own belief-system be defined? Situation Ethics! Morality depends on persons, places, events, social mores and is subject to change. No absolute morality can truly be posited. Equal to the Greek philosopher Heraclitus, who stated that all in the world is subject to “Perpetual Flux”--- meaning all changes, and that refers to morality. In other words, there is no such thing as “Absolute Truth”.
Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI, coined an immortal phrase that explains perfectly this state of moral uncertainty and confusion: “The Dictatorship of moral-relativism”. Individuals determine to dictate for themselves what morality is!
Finally, the famous convert to Catholicism, and Bible scholar Dr. Scott Hahn coined the pithy summary of this false-philosophy as “Cafeteria-Catholicism”. It is probably what you conjecture! As in a cafeteria you can pick and choose what you prefer to eat, so also in morality you can choose what you like and discard what proves to be distasteful to your moral taste buds! In other words, Jesus as Good Shepherd and heaven are to be chosen, but Hell or even the pains of Purgatory and practicing moral constraint with respect to sexual abstinence, these can be rejected!
Much of this confusion started with the outright rebellion against the encyclical of Pope Paul VI, Humanae Vitae. There is a moral “free-for all” in which individuals want to choose for themselves what is right and wrong!
Our conclusion to this modern state of affairs and the remedy is not overly-complicated! It all boils down to one simple word: OBEDIENCE!
Does absolute truth exist? Yes! Where? In a Person: Jesus Christ! He is truly present in His Mystical Body which is the Catholic Church. The Church has the invisible Head--- Jesus glorified in heaven. But also, there is a visible Head of the Church here on earth. Jesus promised us that He would be with us always even until the end of time. This visible “Head” is Jesus’ Successor, who is called the Pope, Holy Father, Vicar of Christ.
When the Pope speaks on matters regarding faith, morals and dogma, he cannot make a mistake. Why? Due to the simple reason: that when he teaches in this capacity he is infallible because it is the Holy Spirit--- God Himself--- that is inspiring and guiding the Pope in these all-important and crucial matters. The Holy Spirit is God and the Truth!
Therefore, to avoid falling into the moral abyss of total confusion related to moral relativism, we must humbly obey and submit to all of the teachings of the Holy Father, the Pope, because he who hears Peter (“The Pope”) also hears Jesus and Jesus is the Truth and the Truth will set you free!