Mirror of Justice

A blog dedicated to the development of Catholic legal theory.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Reporting on Humanae Vitae, Fr. John C. Ford, SJ and Dr. Germain Grisez

I just read an interesting article, “New birth control commission papers reveal Vatican’s hand,” appearing in the National Catholic Reporter [here] in which the author, Mr. Gerald Slevin, asserts that Dr. Grisez (Fr. Ford died in 1989) has engaged in revisionism that “appears to be part of an effort by some traditionalist Catholics—often with the Vatican’s blessing—to rewrite elements of the history of the Second Vatican Council” and the history of Humanae Vitae. Mr. Slevin refers to a short history [here] authored by Dr. Grisez about Fr. Ford (who incidentally earned his law degree from Boston College in 1941) and his work on the Pontifical Commission on Population, Family, and Birth-rate established by Pope John XXIII in 1963 less than two months before the Pontiff died. Dr. Grisez assisted Fr. Ford in his labors on this important Commission.

I am intrigued that Mr. Slevin refers to the documents that Dr. Grisez mentions and provides in his history of Fr. Ford as “new.” They certainly are not new in that they span in range from the early 1960s through the early 1990s shortly after Fr. Ford died.

Well, that might mean that they are “new” in the context of just seeing the light of day.

I am not sure that would be an accurate assessment, though. In 2007 Fr. Eric Marcelo O. Genilo, S.J. published his doctoral dissertation on the moral theology of Fr. Ford and cites many of the documents linked by Dr. Grisez. Fr. Genilo had access to the documents that were in Fr. Ford’s library and files which are now in the Jesuit Archives of the New England Province located at the College of the Holy Cross. Any researcher, as Fr. Genilo has demonstrated, could have access to most, if not all, of these texts which Mr. Slevin has labeled “new.” Fr. Ford’s papers were collected and catalogued after his death in 1989 and then made available to researchers willing to contact and travel to the New England Province Archives. Finally, Fr. Genilo’s published dissertation covers much the same ground contained in the Slevin article but without the rhetorical flourish of the brief article in the NCR.


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