Germain Grisez’s Press Release Concerning Father John C. Ford, S.J.

Date: February 2, 2011
From: Germain Grisez
Daytime: (301) 447-5771
Evening: (301) 447-6451



EMMITSBURG, Md.—Important new information concerning the work of the pontifical ‘birth control commission’ that studied the issue of contraception before Pope Paul VI published his encyclical Humanae Vitae is now available on the website of a prominent American theologian who was close to that body.

The new material appears on the website – – of Dr. Germain Grisez, emeritus professor of Christian Ethics at Mount Saint Mary’s University. It includes: A biographical sketch by Grisez of Father John C. Ford, S.J., an American moral theologian and expert on the Pontifical Commission on Population, Family, and Birth-rate, which contains previously unknown facts about the inner workings of that body.

Several internal documents of the commission, including the official reports on both its crucial fourth session in March, 1965 and its decisive final session in the spring of 1966.

A critical response prepared by Ford and Grisez at the request of Cardinal Alfredo Ottaviani, head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, and delivered by him to Pope Paul VI soon after he received the commission’s final report.

The Pontifical Commission on Population, Family, and Birth-rate was established by Blessed Pope John XXIII in March, 1963 to prepare for the Holy See’s participation in a forthcoming conference organized by the United Nations and the World Health Organization.
Pope Paul VI expanded the commission in June, 1964.

Pope Paul appointed Father Ford to the commission in October of that year, and as the work of that body moved into its crucial stage in June, 1966 the priest asked Grisez to come to Rome and lend him a hand in what he was doing.

The materials released by Grisez provide new information concerning the role of the commission’s Secretary General, the Rev. Henri de Riedmatten, a Dominican priest with the Vatican Secretariat of State. He is depicted as working to influence the commission to recommend change in the Catholic Church’s teaching condemning contraception.

In the event, Humanae Vitae, which Pope Paul issued in July, 1968, reaffirmed the traditional teaching that contraception is morally wrong.

Grisez’s biography of Father Ford is an insightful account of the Jesuit priest, who before the Humanae Vitae controversy was the leading American Catholic moral theologian of his day.
He was among the founders in 1940 of the scholarly journal, Theological Studies, and he published a lengthy article in that journal in 1944 condemning as immoral the saturation bombing in which the United States and the United Kingdom were even then engaging.
Father Ford, born in 1902—27 years before Grisez—died in 1989.



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