TURNING POINT by Robert McClory

TURNING POINT

The Inside Story of the Papal Birth Control Commission, and How Humanae Vitae Changed the Life of Patty Crowley and the Future of the Church
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KIRKUS REVIEW

 McClory (The Man Who Beat Clout City, 1977) offers some prime details on a story that continues to reverberate through world Catholicism. The Pontifical Commission for the Study of Population, Family and Birth (which advised the Holy See on whether or not to overturn the edict that birth control other than the rhythm method is ``intrinsically indecent'') was born during the heady reformist reign of Pope John XXIII and realized under the guidance of Pope Paul VI. Unlike most official Vatican councils, the commission involved laypeople (both academic experts and nonexperts) in addition to ecclesiastical advisors. Patricia and Patrick Crowley, as co-presidents of the Catholic Family Movement, were two of those nonacademic laypeople. Over the course of the three years of the commission's activity, they watched their reformist hopes shatter against the rocks of conservative hardliners who convinced Pope Paul to retain strictures against birth control. Humanae Vitae, the watershed document the pope issued in 1968, stands as a monument in the minds of many to the entrenched, unmoving nature of the Holy See in matters most intimate to the lives of its faithful. McClory does an admirable job of tracing out--no mean task given the heavy secrecy of most of the proceedings--the whys and wherefores of how the majority of voices on the commission, who like the Crowleys sought papal tolerance of birth control, were torpedoed by energetic, well-connected opponents. The background sections on the nearly 2,000-year-old issue of Christian procreation and the more specific question of birth control are informative, if somewhat brief. Though other sources exist for most of what's here, this book does a nice job of keeping alive the issue of human life and Roman Catholicism. Though the foregone conclusion of this tale precludes high drama, interested readers will find much here to think about.

Pub Date: March 1st, 1995
ISBN: 0-8245-1458-0
Page count: 192pp
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1st, 1995