A bit of history on the Catholic Church and Contraception from the days of Cardinal Richard Cushing of the Archdiocese of Boston. The events described in the article occurred before Humanae Vitae and suggest the thinking and outlook of many Catholics, lay and clergy alike. This article was first published in the Catholic Historical Review, July 2010, and republished in the Boston College Magazine, Spring 2011. The author is Seth Meehan.The time is 1963: "For the first time in public, Cushing suggested that the law against contraceptives should be changed. I have no right to impose my thinking, which is rooted in religious thought, on those who do not think as I do, he said. If and when such legislation comes before the voters again, he reflected, he would confer with the [Churchs] best authorities to find out how I am obligated. The cardinal declared he would continue to explain Catholic teaching. (Briefly, the Church heldand holdscontraception to be a denial of natural law, a turning against the procreative nature with which God imbued human beings.) But he would not go out campaigning: In a pluralistic society, Catholics ought not to insist on a civil law so divisive and unenforceable."This is history now, but there are people who actually remember details of the events!
Margaret O'Brien Steinfels, a former editor of Commonweal, writes frequently in these pages.