“Charity and Dissenting Theologians”     

During June 1979, the Archdiocese of Washington sponsored a conference at the Catholic University of America on the principles of Catholic moral life. Grisez gave a paper criticizing the use of consequentialism by theologians to support their dissent from Catholic moral teachings and calling on the pastors of the Church to reject such dissenting opinions as incompatible with Catholic faith. He also argued that bishops should not tolerate the use of such dissenting opinions as a basis for pastoral practice. The latter argument provoked some attending the conference to charge, as the Rev. Bernhard Häring and others had previously, that Grisez was being divisive and uncharitable. Grisez thought that charge had to be answered, not to protect his reputation—he admitted his charity was defective—but to vindicate his advice to bishops regarding their pastoral responsibility.

Nevertheless, Grisez’s argument against tolerating the application in pastoral practice of dissenting opinions based on consequentialism seems to have had little if any effect. However, a clear and authoritative rejection of consequentialism as a view at odds with divine revelation did arrive, f o u r t e e n years later, in Pope John Paul II’s encyclical, Veritatis splendor.

This article is copyright © Catholic Polls Inc. 1979; all rights reserved. Anyone is free to print one copy for his or her use.

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“Catholic Morality: Hard Sayings or Good News”     

Grisez was invited to give a commencement address on 12 May 1985 (the published version mistakenly makes it 1975) at St. Hyacinth College and Seminary, an institution in Granby, Massachusetts, then operated by the St. Anthony of Padua Province of the Conventual Franciscan Friars. In his address, Grisez briefly describes our present, post-Christian, secularized cultural environment and sketches the pastoral strategy appropriate to evangelize people formed by that environment and to guide and protect those who are only partially liberated from it by authentic Christian faith and hope.

Grisez publishes this address here, copyright © 1985, and reserves the right to make and distribute copies for sale. However, he hereby grants everyone the right to print out and distribute without charge copies of this document provided the source is identified and this copyright information included. The account of pastoral practice provided in this address is developed much more fully in “Legalism, Moral Truth, and Pastoral Practice,” below.

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“How To Deal With Theological Dissent”     

In the fall of 1985, the twentieth anniversary of the completion of the Second Vatican Council, Pope John Paul II convoked an Extraordinary Synod of Bishops to recall both the real character of that Council and its authentic teachings and directives, so as to promote their ongoing fruitfulness for the life of the Church herself and for her salvific mission in service to all humankind. An international congress on moral theology was organized for April 1986 by the Roman Academic Center of the Holy Cross (a campus of Opus Dei’s University of Navarra) and the John Paul II Institute for Marriage and the Family (a program of the Lateran University), and Grisez was among those enlisted to help plan that meeting. Since he would be in Rome for it, the Rector of the Academic Center arranged for him to stay afterward to do a mini-course on exceptionless moral norms and one public lecture, reflecting on the the results of the 1985 Synod in relation to the problems of moral theology with which the Congress would have dealt.

While Grisez thought that the Synod’s instruction bearing on the Council’s teaching was sound and helpful, he did not think the 1985 Synod had faced the problem of dissent, which was a central concern of the moral-theology congress, as straightforwardly as the 1967 Synod had done. So, after summarizing what the Synod had done, Grisez described the crisis of faith throughout the Church caused by theological dissent and outlined a method by which the college of bishops, always including and led by the pope, could—and he implied should—overcome theological dissent. One element of his proposal is for the bishops to give a genuine and in-depth hearing to opposing theological views and the arguments for them. Since Paul VI had tried to do just that in 1963–66 with his famous birth-control commission, Grisez pointed out what he regarded as procedural mistakes Pope Paul had made that prevented his otherwise appropriate initiative from working out as he had hoped.

Grisez arrived in Rome with many copies of this paper ready to distribute to those who came to hear it. To ensure that an accurate, simultaneous, Italian translation could be provided, he delivered the text in advance to the Rector of the Roman Academic Center of the Holy Cross, Rev. Ignacio Carrasco de Paula. He read it and told Grisez to delete the criticism of Paul VI, and when Grisez refused to delete it, cancelled the lecture. On the evening it had been scheduled, Grisez and his wife went to the gate of the Academic Center to give copies of the paper to those arriving to hear it. Arriving early were a group of seminarians from the nearby English College; they quickly arranged for Grisez to present the paper there, and guided others arriving to the new venue, where the paper led to a lively discussion. The paper later circulated more widely in Rome than it likely would have if the lecture had not been cancelled.

This article is copyright © Catholic Polls Inc. 1986; all rights reserved.

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“Is ‘Safe Sex’ a Lesser Evil?     
What the Bishops Really Said—and Did”

In 1987, a committee of the United States Catholic Conference produced a document, “The Many Faces of AIDS: A Gospel Response,” which was issued by the organization’s Adminstrative Board on 14 November 1987. While that document includes much sound and helpful advice and says it is not promoting the use of condoms, it approves informing people “about prophylactic devices or other practices proposed by some medical experts as potential means of preventing AIDS,” and appeals in support to the proposition, accepted by the magisterium, that some evils may be tolerated. Many U.S. bishops objected vigorously to this publication, and some called for its withdrawal.

One bishop asked Grisez for his opinion, and when he delivered a carefully drafted response, urged him to publish it. Grisez did so and again publishes that response here, copyright © 1988, and reserves the right to make and distribute copies for sale. However, he hereby grants everyone the right to print out and distribute without charge copies of this response provided the source is identified and this copyright information included.

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On 29 May 1988, Cardinal Ratzinger, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, sent a letter to Archbishop Pio Laghi, Apostolic Nuncio to the United States, denying the relevance of the principle of toleration. Nevertheless, at a meeting of the U.S. bishops on 27 June 1988, Cardinal Joseph Bernardin successfully urged them not to retract “The Many Faces of AIDS,” but instead to publish an additional document on the subject, which the National Conference of Catholic Bishops did in November 1989: “Called to Compassion and Responsibility: A Response to the HIV/AIDS Crisis.” That document reaffirms the sound and helpful elements of the previous one but omits mention of its objectionable element, thus deliberately allowing it to stand and be invoked regularly to rationalize, as a Gospel response to AIDS, formal cooperation with actions that are objectively gravely immoral.

The United States Catholic Conference, which was dissolved on 1 July 2001, was not a canonical entity but a civil corporation that served as the public policy agency not only of the Catholic bishops but of certain other Catholics of the U.S. Thus, although its documents are published among the pastoral letters and statements of the U.S. Catholic bishops, “The Many Faces of AIDS” has no teaching authority whatsoever.


“The Duty and Right to Follow One’s Judgment of Conscience”     

The second International Congress of Moral Theology, which included contributions by scholars in other disciplines, was held in Rome 9–12 November 1988 with the general title, “Humanae Vitae: 20 Years After.” It was organized and sponsored by the Pontifical John Paul II Institute for Studies of Marriage and the Family at the Lateran University and the Roman Academic Centre of the Holy Cross of the University of Navarra.

Dissent from the teachings of the Church that were reaffirmed by Paul VI in Humanae Vitae very often was accompanied by pseudo-pastoral advice to married couples that with respect to contraception they could rightly ignore constant and very firm Catholic teachings and follow their own “consciences.” Grisez was invited to give a paper on this misrepresentation of Christian conscience. In treating conscience and the magisterium in that paper, Grisez made it clear that pastors were failing in their duty if they continued to authorize subordinates to teach what they themselves believed to be false.

Msgr. Alvaro del Portillo, the Prelate of Opus Dei, introduced the session that included Grisez’s paper with a brief paper of his own, “Moral Conscience and the Magisterium,” and at the end of that session embraced Grisez, thanked him for his contribution, and said that both of them were working for the good of the Church. Pope John Paul II, in his address closing the Congress, stated clearly one of the main points Grisez had made in his paper: “Since the Magisterium of the Church has been instituted by Christ the Lord to enlighten our consciences, to appeal to this very conscience precisely in order to question the truth of what has been taught by the Magisterium is to reject the Catholic conception of both the Magisterium and of the moral conscience.”

Grisez’s paper was reprinted in many places. However, the proceedings of the Congress, in which this paper appears is copyright © 1989 Edizioni Ares; all rights reserved.

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“Legalism, Moral Truth, and Pastoral Practice”     

Soon after he became Archbishop of Philadelphia, Cardinal Anthony Bevilaacqua founded a chair in moral theology in honor of his predecessor, Cardinal Krol, at the archdiocesan seminary. There, on 17–20 January 1990, a symposium on moral theology and the priesthood was held on the occasion of the installation of Dr. John M. Haas as the chair’s first tenant. Cardinal Josef Ratzinger, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith gave the keynote address and participated in the entire event.

Invited to contribute a paper, Grisez focused on legalism, which not only bedevilled classical moral theology and pastoral practice but, since Vatican II, has adulterated dissenting moral theology and the disastrous pastoral practice in conformity with it. Immediately following Grisez’s paper, the Rev. Albert Vanhoye, S.J., an eminent Scripture scholar, gave an excellent paper on St. Paul as moral teacher and guide, and, as some at the sympoium noted, the two papers neatly complemented each other.

Both of those papers later appeared in The Catholic Priest as Moral Teacher and Guide (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1990), copyright © 1990 Ignatius Press, San Francisco, all rights reserved. But Grisez’s paper appeared there with some unauthorized editing; so the version provided here is that earlier published just as it was presented.

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“Submission to the Ad Hoc Committee on Sexual Abuse    
United States Conference of Catholic Bishops”
6 May 2002

Beginning in January 2002, publicity regarding sexual offenses by Catholic clerics in the United States and the filing of lawsuits against dioceses, especially but not only against the Archdiocese of Boston, constituted a crisis that the Catholic bishops of the United States had to deal with. On 23 April, the American cardinals met with Pope John Paul II, who supported taking action to deal with the underlying evils of both the abuse and the inappropriate responses of many bishops to it.

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops had established an ad hoc committee to plan how the Conference would deal with the crisis at its meeting in Dallas in June. Having reflected for several years on potential actions by the bishops that could help prevent and respond to clerical sexual offenses, Grisez formulated his analysis and suggestions as a submission that he sent to every member of the ad hoc committee and to certain other bishops who seemed likely to be open to his thoughts.

At their meeting in June, the bishops strove to deal with the public relations disaster, adopted a policy for dealing with past and future clerical sexual offenses, and set out plans for implementing that policy. There was, however, no sign that Grisez’s submission had any effect. Moreover, while almost all of the U.S. bishops subsequently dealt far more firmly with clerical offenders than most of them had previously—and some began to violate the rights of clerics who were accused, but not proved guilty, of wrongful sexual activity—it is not clear that bishops took equally effective action, either in 2002 or later, to reform their own defective attitudes and practices, which led to the crisis and have been, and remain, at least as serious an evil as the clerical sexual offenses themselves.

Grisez publishes his Submission here, copyright © 2009, and reserves the right to make and distribute copies for sale. However, he hereby grants everyone the right to print out and distribute without charge copies of this document provided the source is identified and this copyright information included.

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“Sin, Grace, and Zero Tolerance: An Exchange”     

As the time approached in 2005 for the U.S. bishops to revisit the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People they had adopted in 2002, some both in Rome and in the United States regarded the provisions excluding offenders from ministry as too severe and argued that they should be relaxed. Among those making that case were some whom Grisez regarded as both good and able, including one of his own colleagues. He therefore articulated carefully his reasons for opposing that proposal, and offered the document to First Things for publication. The editor enlisted Cardinal Dulles to write a reply, and the two pieces were published together.

Readers must be familiar with the views of Cardinal Dulles on the matter to understand Grisez’s argument fully and fairly evaluate it. He therefore makes both pieces available here just as they appeared. They are copyright © 2005 by the Institute on Religion and Public Life; all rights reserved.

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“The Church Betrayed?”     

While the Ford Foundation, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and other similar secular organizations surely have done many good things in the world, no informed and sane person would regard any of them as a charitable apostolate of the Catholic Church. However, a monsignor who for many years managed the “charities” agency of one of the largest Catholic archdioceses in the United States, congratulating himself on what he regarded as his work’s great success, attributed it in no small part to close collaboration with non-Catholic agencies, public and private—collaboration possible, he claimed, because “Catholic charities has nothing to do with faith.”

Catholic Relief Services was founded in 1943 by the Catholic bishops of the United States to help suffering people overseas. The agency began an HIV/AIDS program in 1986. Around the end of 2007, a CRS employee at its main office in Baltimore contacted Grisez with a difficult moral question. The young man said that the agency was: (1) promoting so-called safer sex, including both condom use and sexual activity other than intercourse by both married couples and youngsters, particularly but not only in Africa; (2) distancing itself from this activity by ordering that “Any written educational material that contains information about condoms must not carry the CRS name or logo”; and (3) threatening to end help to Catholic churches abroad that refused to comply with CRS policy about supplying “information” on safer sex. He asked if he could continue working closely with those involved in that effort, and to clarify his problem, he provided some CRS documents and covering letters written by CRS officials.

As usual, Grisez did not say yes or no. Instead, he helped the CRS employee reflect upon many relevant factors and make his own conscientious judgment regarding what to do. (He continued working at CRS, tried to promote sounder policies, and was soon fired.) But while the CRS employee offered convincing reasons to think that some members of its board probably knew what was going on, Grisez did not believe that Timothy Dolan, then Archbishop of Milwaukee and CRS Board Chairman, would be a party to such activities. Still it would be very difficult for Archbishop Dolan to clean house singlehandedly; he would need the support not only of other bishops but of Catholic contributors who had not known what was going on at CRS. Grisez therefore decided to publish, not all the accusations, but those proved by evidence he possessed.

As usual with magazine articles, the title was provided not by Grisez, the author, but by the editor: “The Church Betrayed?” The article was published not only in print but on the magazine’s website, and the documents referred to in the article were made available there. The article is copyright © 2008 Ignatius Press, San Francisco, all rights reserved.

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Referred to in the article are a letter e-mailed by Jennifer Overton, the CRS senior technical advisor for HIV, on 11 January 2008, covering a document, “CRS’ Position on the Prevention of Sexual Transmission of HIV,” dated December 2007; and a letter dated October 2007 and mailed by an executive at CRS, Jared M. Hoffman, signed as AIDSRelief/Chief of Party, covering a computer disk with the “Flipchart for Client Education.” Inasmuch as these CRS documents and the flipchart provide the solid evidence that supports the article, various true statements in which were contradicted by spokespersons for CRS, they are also made available here.

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The Flipchart for Client Education was no doubt designed for distribution and use in hard form. As a computer file, it is very large and opens slowly. Please be patient!

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The publication of Grisez’s article did lead Archbishop Dolan to take some action. Included in it was sending a letter on 23 April 2008 to all of his fellow U.S. bishops in which he, among other things, made several statements about Grisez and his article that Grisez regarded as false and asked Dolan to correct. Grisez eventually received a response which he did not consider satisfactory. To allow others to judge for themselves, Grisez makes that correspondence available here.

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