(By the way, I assume Vatican Analyst, means an analyst working for the Vatican and not a person who is paid to analyze the Vatican but one can never be too sure.)
The key admission is this one:
Magister began his piece by stating that a “divergence” has existed between the teachings of the Church and individual Catholic practice long before contraceptives were even on the market. The Vatican analyst then discussed how the book cites a case study involving a model Catholic area in Italy during the first half of the 1900s.
“Rural Veneto was at the time the most Catholic region in Italy, with an extremely solid, grassroots presence of the Church,” Magister explained. “But even in Veneto in the first half of the twentieth century – where almost everyone went to Mass on Sundays and to confession at least once a year – the birth rate was cut in half in the span of one generation.
“It went from 5 children per woman in 1921 to 2.5 children per woman in 1951 because of generalized recourse to contraceptive practices, the most widespread of which was coitus interruptus.”That is true and the divergence probably goes back even further than that. Catholics with more education have always tended to have fewer children than others. That didn't happen by accident. I don't know quite how he comes to the conclusion that coitus interruptus was the primary form of avoiding pregnancy and he may be right but any Catholic schoolgirl can tell you five or six ways to have and give orgasms and not get pregant.
But I came first to praise Magister and only then to criticize and he deserves some kind of award for acknowledging that Catholics ignoring Catholic teaching on sexual issues is widespread in the first half of the twentieth century long before the pill or Humane Vitae.
Anyway, back to the article. What went wrong according to Magister?
Magister said that the author attributes these numbers to silence on the part of the Catholic clergy at the time, who were employing the “theory of good faith” taught by St. Alphonsus Maria de Liguori.
“According to this theory,” said Magister, “in the presence of a penitent who is suspected of committing contraceptive actions but appears unaware of the gravity of the sin and in practice incapable of correcting his behavior, it is best to respect his silence and take his good faith into account, absolving him without posing any further questions.”
However, Magister wrote that “a change took place in 1931” with the publication by Pius XI's encyclical "Casti Connubii."So what changed with Casti Connubi? Well, the church advocated that priests and bishops become much more authoritarian in its approach.
“From then on, at the behest of the hierarchy, conjugal morality became a bigger part of preaching. And therefore the room for inculpable ignorance was reduced,” Magister noted. “A few priests wrote about this: once it has been said in public what is good and what is evil between spouses, 'good faith can no longer be admitted.'”But Magister argues, it didn't work because, he says, many priests ignored the new approach and continued using the older more lenient approach.
“Even afterward – and this brings us up to today – the condemnation of contraceptives would be the subject of papal documents, but already at the level of the bishops it would hardly appear in preaching.
“The clergy, for their part, would be almost completely silent on it. And would continue to be very understanding and indulgent in the confessional,” Magister concluded.But there is another problem here that blows Magister's claim right out of the water. Even if clergy silence is contributing to Catholic ignoring church teachings it cannot explain Western Catholics having an even lower birth rate than Anglicans and protestants who actually approve the use of contraception. And yet, if we look at Italy—the country where the Catholic church has the greatest cultural influence—the birth rate there is much lower than other western countries. If we compare Italy's birth rate to other countries. It has one of the world lowest birth rates. According to the CIA World FactBook Italy has the second lowest birth rate in the entire world! Only Hong Kong is lower.
Here in Canada, Quebec has long had the largest proportion of Catholics and has also long had the lowest birth rate. And when we look at demographics inside Quebec, we see that Catholics in the province have a significantly lower birth rate than non Catholics.
There is a massive catechetical failure here. Magister has, however, done the church a huge favour by acknowledging that it didn't start with Humane Vitae.