The newly published book "A pure heart create for me" contains a paper given in Soho in 2008 by Fr Anthony Doe (of the Westminster Diocese). Although the book contains a variety of papers given to honour the 1968 promulgation of Humanae Vitae, this paper, in my view, goes to the very heart of the matter. Fr Anthony Doe speaks not so much about the issues surrounding the truth of the Church's teaching but focusses instead on humanity's need of Christ; Christ uniquely transforms human life and makes it into what it is called to be. It is a tremendous teaching, coming from the heart of the Church to direct the hearts of all believers to the Corner Stone of human life.
His paper does not hinge upon the truth of Natural Fertility Management but upon transformation in Christ. Baptism, he says, is "not just a casual invitation to be formally religious but a totally all-consuming call to personal holiness." Here is the message of the Church - a message which has been somewhat overlaid by all sorts of 'human projects'. For many today, says Fr Doe, instead of the baptised being focussed upon a "supernatural grounding ... animated by the Holy Spirit", we have seen the "spirit of the Age ... demand the right to interpret the Gospel and the teaching of Jesus."
No wonder it has been so hard for many to grasp the teaching of Humanae Vitae, since the starting point for many has been and is the wisdom of this age, and not the mighty power of the Redeemer. It is only in a relationship with the Redeemer that the whole truth about our lives becomes evident - however challenging that may be to any one of us. Fr Doe in his masterly paper points the baptised to their real and essential focus in life. So true it is, that without the priority of grace, the "radicalism and total generosity that is at the centre of the Lord's call to discipleship will then begin to disintegrate, and the joy that always accompanies the anthentic transmission of the Gospel will no longer be able to heal and animate the hearts of the faithful."
Fr Doe then goes on to present in concrete detail the objective Spiritual life of the Christian. In this wonderful treatise he describes how Christ enables a person to surrender his or her life to God and how, with Christ, he or she can confront the reality of his or her sinfulness. That Christ's desire "is to transform us so completely that our communion with him will be an encounter of reciprocal spousal love and this experience of mutual self-gift will become our total reality."
Now when you put this vision for life into the discussion/argument over the Church's teaching on birth control you have a very different perspective from that of the world: transformation in Christ v changing the Gospel to suit present values and ideas. Christ at the centre or Christ on the margins. Human life, the gift of God or human life, my own project. An integral vision for life v a fractured one.
Thank you Fr Doe for reminding us to base our lives upon a preferential option for Christ.
(The photo above shows the building of a new font in Salisbury Cathedral.)