Janet E. Smith’s hypocrisy on Humanae Vitae

Her article at CatholicWorldReport.com is here: McCarrick, dissent from ‘Humanae vitae’, and the ‘sensus fidelium’. It contains two stunning hypocrisies.

Hypocrisy 1

Janet E. Smith repeatedly decries the “dissent from Humanae vitae” that is causing harm to the Church in a number of ways. Yes, that dissent is harming souls, and it does lead to other dissents, to other errors. But Janet Smith is the preeminent dissenter from Humanae Vitae on the right. Catholics on the left continue to claim that the faithful may disregard Humanae Vitae and follow their own (misinformed) conscience instead. But on the right, there is no greater traitor to the teachings of Humanae Vitae and Veritatis Splendor than Janet E. Smith.

Smith has devised a radical reinterpretation of Humanae Vitae which narrows the condemnation of contraception to solely when it is used in a valid marriage (sacramental or natural). Smith wrote a new translation of Humanae Vitae, which adds words and phrases not based on anything in the original Latin, so that the new text says what she wish the Pontiff had written, that contraception is only intrinsically evil within marriage. When contraception is used to thwart the procreative meaning of non-marital sexual acts, she claims, Humanae Vitae does not apply.

So while pretending to defend Humanae Vitae, while traveling to give talks on Humanae Vitae, while writing books and articles on Humanae Vitae, she does nothing other than attack its true teaching. Her reinterpretation means that billions of uses of contraception, perhaps even a majority of uses, do not fall under the condemnation of Humanae Vitae. And though her position is contradicted by many different magisterial documents [see this article and its follow-up], she steadfastly spreads this false interpretation of Humanae Vitae.

She was behind the wording used in a statement on contraception signed by 500 scholars, a statement which incorporated her own radical reinterpretation of Humanae Vitae. See my explanation here.

And now she has the gall to publicly bemoan “dissent” from Humanae Vitae and all the harm that it does. She is the preeminent dissenter on the right from Humanae Vitae. And her dissent — in accord with her own prognostication — has led to further dissents from Church teaching. She rejects the condemnation of intrinsically evil acts, such as lying, direct sterilization, abortifacients, and unnatural sexual acts in marriage (see below). All these acts are redefined so that they now fall outside of the definition of the intrinsically evil act. And that is the very same methodology she uses on contraception. She redefines contraception to be no longer really “contraception” when the sexual acts are not within a valid marriage.

See my past posts on her errors.

Hypocrisy 2

Smith tells us that dissent from Humanae Vitae will inevitably lead to approval for homosexual acts. It is true that, once you approve of the deprivation of the procreative finality from sexual intercourse, you lose one of the main reasons for condemning the unnatural sexual acts of homosexual couples, that these acts are inherently non-procreative. Yes, that’s a good point. But it actually applies to Smith’s own work.

Smith: “To those who have eyes to see, it is not hard to see that the widespread embrace of contraception leads to approval of homosexuality. After all, those who accept contraception hold that respecting the procreative possibility of the sexual act is not essential to the moral performance of that action. Thus why not homosexuality and a whole host of deviant sexual actions?”

She argues, correctly, that if you accept the deprivation of the procreative meaning, then it would be consistent (and similarly wrong) to accept those deviant types of sexual acts which are inherently non-procreative, such as homosexual sex.

Why is this hypocrisy? When Christopher West was criticized by several priests and theologians for his claim that sodomy can be considered moral when used within marriage, Janet E. Smith came to his defense. Twice. She defended the use of anal sex within marriage, as a type of “foreplay”, even though that act was — she herself informs us — condemned as a mortal sin by Doctor of the Church Saint Alphonsus Liguori. Acts which are gravely immoral due to the deprivation of the procreative meaning (as well as the unitive meaning) are approved by Smith.

Here are those sources: Christopher West’s Work is Completely Sound and The Need to Read Carefully.

She notes correctly that dissent from Humanae Vitae is related, at least philosophically, to dissent from the Church’s condemnation of the unnatural sexual acts, since those acts are non-procreative. Then she herself dissents from Humanae Vitae by radical reinterpretation, and next she defends unnatural sexual acts in marriage.

So I find it very disturbing when she speaks out against homosexuals in the priesthood, since she approves of the same types of sexual acts (oral, anal, and manual) within marriage. I don’t believe she is genuine in her condemnation of homosexual acts between consenting adults, because she approves of the very same acts in marriage, despite knowing that these acts are condemned by the Church’s greatest moral theologian, Saint Alphonsus Liguori.

Some quotes from Smith follow:

“the modern sexual ethic has debased men, women and sex”.

“The failure of the Church to maintain a culture respectful of sexual values and to protect the innocent is even more distressing, for the Church has been appointed by Our Savior Jesus Christ to safeguard all morality.”

“a continued existence of a culture within the Church that permits such behavior to take place”

“Bishops, priests, religious and laity must band together to find a way to eradicate what has been repeatedly spoken of as a network of homosexuals who abuse people and who control too much of what goes on in dioceses, orders, and even in the curia.”

Smith’s teaching on marital sex has debased husbands and wives. Her approval for the use of abortifacient contraception for a medical purpose justifies the loss of lives of innocent prenatals. Her approval for unnatural sexual acts in marriage contradicts her condemnation of homosexual acts between same-sex couples. She teaches future priests at Sacred Heart Major Seminary a set of grave errors on intrinsically evil acts, contraception, abortifacient contraception, and unnatural sexual acts in marriage. She herself has failed “to safeguard all morality”. She herself is part of “a culture within the Church that permits such behavior to take place”, the behaviors of using contraception outside of marriage, using abortifacient contraception in marriage, using unnatural sexual acts in marriage, lying, and other errors.

Elizabeth Anscombe (G.E.M. Anscombe) wrote in support of the Church’s teaching on contraception. But she also wrote in favor of unnatural sexual acts in marriage. Hers is that quasi-famous misquote, falsely attributed to Pope Pius XII, actually written by Anscombe. And Smith has promoted the work of Anscombe (including that quote), just as Smith has promoted the work of Christopher West and Gregory Popcak. She promotes the work of persons who approve of unnatural sexual acts in marriage, and at the same time she publicly decries the sin of homosexual unnatural acts. It is a stunning hypocrisy.


In the same article, Janet Smith presents to her readers a misunderstanding of the roots of the child sex abuse crisis in the Church. I address that error in a separate article here.

Ronald L. Conte Jr.
Roman Catholic theologian and translator of the Catholic Public Domain Version of the Bible.

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