With Humanae Vitae in mind, I have a couple of questions about Confession that need answering

In the wake of Amoris Laetitia, there has understandably been much talk of pastoral accompaniment, gradualism, and the internal forum; of meeting people where they are, in the messiness of their lived lives; of not bending bruised reeds; and the like.

I don’t suppose that any priest or bishop, on any “side” of the current debates, genuinely disagrees with the need for these approaches in pastoral care. For indeed, ‘God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him’ (John 3.17). Where they do disagree, however, is on what, in concrete terms, applying these ideals amounts to.

For one pastor, admitting the divorced-and-remarried to Communion is an act of genuinely Christ-like mercy. For another – as I have previously explained – to do so would be to gravely imperil the souls of those in their care. With the stakes so high, it is perhaps no wonder that tempers are too.

For several reasons, Humanae Vitae has been much on my mind of late. This is partly because of its 50th birthday next year, and partly because, researching and writing a good deal on the reception of Humanae Vitae as part of a book I’m working on, the Amoris Wars keep giving me a strange sense of déjà vu.

In light of this, I have a couple of questions – dubia, if you will – for any priest who might be reading this article, which I should be very grateful to receive answers to.

1. Is use of artificial methods on contraception something that (m)any penitents confess?
2. If and when they do so, without stating any explicit “firm purpose of amendment” (for example, if they say something like “well, my husband/wife isn’t Catholic, and so NFP isn’t really a conversation that’s going to get anywhere”), would you grant them absolution?

This is, I might add, a sincerely meant enquiry without any preconceived expectation of what responses I might get: I am simply, genuinely curious to know.

Answers can be emailed to me, directly, at stephen.bullivant@stmarys.ac.uk. Some indication of what country you are in, if it is not obvious, would be a kindness.

I promise to treat these in confidence. While I may well end up quoting from them in things I write (including, hopefully, something for the Herald), I will of course not do so by name, or include any details whatsoever that might identify you.
Needless to say, I will endeavour to send a brief note of thanks to each and correspondent. If you don’t get one, then please assume that, while I remain a grateful and well-brought-up layman, I must have been deluged with hundreds upon hundreds of replies. Here’s hoping!