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Thank goodness for Bishop-elect Egan. Humanae Vitae, he says, is infallible

On the other hand, an obituary of my chaplain in the 1960s recalls the encyclical’s very divided reception

By on Wednesday, 8 August 2012

A banner at a papal Mass in Benin (Photo: CNS)

A banner at a papal Mass in Benin (Photo: CNS)

Today I received the Fisher House Newsletter (of the Cambridge University Catholic chaplaincy) for 2012. On the cover’s list of contents it mentioned “Fr Richard Incledon RIP.” He happened to be the chaplain at Cambridge between 1966 and 1977. As I was an undergraduate between 1965 and 1968, we had crossed paths; thus I was interested to read the newsletter’s obituary, written by Peter Glazebrook.

As obituaries do, it said all sorts of kind things, mentioning Fr Incledon’s academic successes (a double First at Oxford), his generosity, his ecumenical spirit and his support for the redevelopment of the chaplaincy. Then came the last paragraph. It stated: “All this came after the publication of Humanae Vitae which, for Richard, as for many other priests, was a turning point. He made no secret of finding its reasoning unconvincing and its authority dubious: a Catholic should consider it carefully, but was not obliged to assent to it. He was summoned to Archbishop’s House. His card was marked and the institutional Church deprived itself of an outstanding (if demanding) seminary rector and a diocesan bishop who would have brought great distinction to the episcopate. Whether Richard saw it this way is not altogether clear. He undoubtedly found much fulfilment, and gained a multitude of devoted friends, as a chaplain and a parish priest.”

All this is rather speculative. Whether the “institutional church” was deprived of an outstanding bishop we will never know this side of heaven. Incidentally, the Catholic Herald of 1968, the year of Humanae Vitae’s publication, took a similar view, according to former editor Gerard Noel. It tried to steer a via media between the Universe, which said Catholics were obliged to assent to the papal encyclical, and the Tablet, for whom it was a very bitter pill: readers, the Herald thought, should make themselves acquainted with what Pope Paul VI wrote and then follow their conscience. I rather suspect this was a polite cop-out.

Alongside the obituary, Fr Anthony Keefe, a former undergraduate who had known Fr Incledon – and who had arrived the autumn after I had gone down – wrote: “In the aftermath of Humanae Vitae, Richard was particularly generous in his support of priests whose superiors had been especially heavy-handed – but then generosity was his watchword. Fisher House was always a refugium peccatorum, yet it was not permitted to be a hiding-hole. Richard demanded of Catholic students that they play their part in the wider world of the university: he disbanded the Fisher Society, which he considered too insular and as encouraging ‘chaplaincy mice’.”

Reading between the lines, this looks as if Fisher House became an unofficial centre of “loyal dissent” as the phrase goes. I also wonder how many Catholic undergraduates were influenced by their chaplain’s line on the authority or otherwise of Humanae Vitae? I mention all this partly through a sad sense of “sic transit gloria mundi” and also because in William Oddie’s recent blog about the new appointment of Fr Philip Egan as eighth bishop for the Diocese of Portsmouth, he adds, intriguingly, that Fr Egan gave a talk in 2009 on the authority of Humanae Vitae “in which he argued that its teaching was proclaimed infallibly from the ordinary magisterium”.

It seems that Fr Egan’s talk took place at St Patrick’s, Soho Square – a centre of loyal assent, I am glad to report – and this is what, inter alia, he said: “It seems to me that there is a persuasive case for believing that the doctrine of Humanae Vitae, regardless of the pastoral difficulty it causes, regardless of the philosophical and theological arguments thrown against it, regardless of the historical conditioning of its neo-scholastic framework, has been, and is being taught infallibly, that is, irreversibly and without error, by the Church’s ordinary universal magisterium.”

I hope very much that Bishop-elect Egan’s appointment will bring distinction to the “institutional Church”. Thank goodness that, for whatever reason – such as his orthodoxy? – his card has not been marked.

  • http://twitter.com/catholicmomof10 Jackie Parkes

    Sadly it was & is all too common for couples to seek out priests advising them to follow their own conscience re birth control use..In my experience following Humanae Vitae actually brings untold graces & strength to the family – far -reaching & supernatural graces which we will probably only fully realise after death. I recommend all couples to follow it & see for themselves..

  • http://www.catholicyouthwork.com Catholic Youth Work

    I have a very definite opinion on whether HV is infalible, but I’ll keep it too myself because the last time I got involved in this particular debate on the web it got very, very (very) nasty to say the least. Easily one of my more painful memories!! What I will say is that it is a document I thoroughly agree with.

    My reason for posting though, is to make this point… Regardless of whether or not HV is infallible, I think it’s an awful cop-out (sp?) to tell people that they have to follow it “because it’s infallible and that’s that!” That is such a Catholic approach to take and is symptomatic of so much that’s wrong with how we ‘disciple’ in the Church, to borrow an admittedly very protestant phrase!

    If we believe something to be true and good and right then why not try to convince people that they should follow it on that basis alone? Why not try to convince people of it’s beauty and of the better way of life that it points towards rather than just telling people to snap to attention and get in line?

    In my experience, if you allow somebody to discover and love something, they will take it to heart and live it and teach others to do the same. If you corral people into doing something, they either kick against it, and against much else that you stand for, or they live with a lot of fear and bitterness.

  • http://cumlazaro.blogspot.com/ Lazarus

    It’s perfectly possible to declare something infallible and then to seek to convince people of its truth by rational argument. A firm statement of the contents of faith and morals followed by a full explanation of why a given teaching is true are both necessary.

  • http://www.catholicyouthwork.com Catholic Youth Work

    Okay, but we usually forget the second bit!!

  • Philothea

    When HV was published in 1968 a Vatican spokesman said specifically, acting under the authority of its author Paul VI, that it did not come with the Church’s definition of infallibility. It is not open to anyone, even the Pope, still less a bishop-elect, to say that something must be regarded as infallible just because I say it must, and a non-infallible teaching, however long-standing or authoritative, cannot be regarded as binding on anyone’s conscience. (One reason for not considering HV infallible was the new understanding that sexual love has a unitive purpose, not just a procreative one; another was the discovery, through identifying the fertility cycle in women in the 1920s, that sexual love is naturally more often contraceptive than not).

    We are in something of a fantasy world here. The highest form of the Church’s magisterium, definitely coming within the criteria of infallibility, is a general ecumenical council, yet many now are talking about the “errors” of Vatican II, the last such council to be held. Are such people to be regarded as heretics or is there now open season on councils. Can we now discount the decrees of Trent, for instance, if we consider them to be in error?

    So far as contraception is concerned, it is an academic question anyway, seeing that many Catholics decided long ago that they do not agree that the use of contraception is wrong, and no amount of special pleading about so-called infallibility is going to make any difference to that. They are just as much the Church as popes and bishops. Are they ever going to be listened to?

  • mollysdad

    Let me be blunt. God created Adam and Eve and disposed it that all human beings without exception should be descended from them. He has made His power to create human beings dependent on human fertility. IVF and contraception do not only violate the First Commandment, they attack its reason: that it belongs to God alone to have the last word as to whether the generative act will result in a conception or not.

  • theroadmaster

    Pope Paul V1 authored “Humanae Vitae” against a backdrop of social tumult across the western, secular world as authority was being challenged by radicals across all sectors.  Thus he was very much going  against the grain of popular opinion, as bishops, priests, theologians and lay people in their multitudes argued vociferously against this official reaffirmation of the Church’s teachings against artificial contraception.  This prophetic pope foresaw the disastrous moral consequences for the widespread use of artificial birth-control in terms of sexual promiscuity,  STDs, rising levels of divorce, abortion and the separation of  procreation from the unitive aspect of the reproductive act. These have all come to fruition over the last 40 years or more, and the fallout came be seen from the broken, atomized families and communities that we can see across the western world.  The Church must hold fast to this  traditional and timeless Christian teaching with regard to it’s immutability, as held up by the exercise of the Ordinary Magisterium in it’s Infallible form.

  • Alexander VI

    HV failed to make a compelling case against contraception. The issue is dead and buried.
    The idea that the views of some minor ecclesiastic like Egan is going to persuade people to change their behaviour is laughable. 

  • Julia

    The very concept of infallibility is surely a nonsense.

    When this teaching was announced, quite recently in the Church’s history, it was done so to bolster the authority of the Pope. But besides this blatantly obvious reason, the question clearly arises as to whether the announcement was itself claimed to be infallible, even on its own terms. After all. it was not announced after the “infallibility teaching”.

    The obvious, unthinking, retort is of course to say that all Popes were always infallible – but they simply never got around to telling anybody about this profoundly important, supernatural ability that they possessed. And how likely would you think that is? (Your answer, of course, all depends on who you are.) 

  • Daclamat

    Even the Pope doesn’t agree. What about the sensus fidelium?

  • James

    In your opinion, maybe.

  • James

    I’m not sure too many people talk of the “errors of Vatican II.” It’s more about things done “in the Spirit of Vatican II.”

    As for Catholics using contraception, in my experience, it’s not because they believe contraception is OK, it’s because they use it despite the Church’s teaching it is wrong.

  • James

    Roma Locuta Est – Causa Finita Est

  • http://cumlazaro.blogspot.com/ Lazarus

    Yes, agree. And that’s got to be key in any future evangelism: we can’t expect well educated people to take things simply on trust. We need to be far more explicit about the theological and philosophical underpinnings of the faith: we’ve inherited an impressive intellectual inheritance and we should use it. (But in authoritative, clear teaching rather than just flattering people’s uninformed consciences.)

  • LocutusOP

    I don’t see what the fuss is about…Humanae Vitae contained no new pronunciation of doctrine anyway.

    Since worshippers of Vatican II point to it to promote and defend all
    sorts of dissent and heresy, and evidently regard at least that council
    as infallible, it’s important to remind these folks what Vatican II
    actually taught on the issue in article/paragraph 51 och Gaudium et
    Spes:

    “…sons of the Church may not undertake methods of birth control which
    are found blameworthy by the teaching authority of the Church in its unfolding
    of the divine law.
    All should be persuaded that human life and the task of transmitting it are
    not realities bound up with this world alone. Hence they cannot be measured or
    perceived only in terms of it, but always have a bearing on the eternal destiny
    of men.”

    It’s clear from the tone of Humanae Vitae that it is not merely a
    pastoral letter and that its teaching is binding. But to those who
    doubt, surely the pronouncement of Vatican II would undoubtedly seem to
    elevate it to the level of infallible teaching.

    In any case, if it wasn’t binding then, surely the fallout from the
    debasement of the marital act means that the Humanae Vitae has been
    proved to be truthful, and since Christians are bound to truth first and
    foremost, it is binding for that reason alone…

  • Julia

    Who made that claim (St. Augustine?). And how did HE know?

    What about: “Dawkins locuta est – causa finita est” ? 

    PS: I don’t believe that one, either!
    PPS: Or any other one, for that matter.

  • Julia

    “Humanae Vitae” was, perhaps, “not the beginning of the end — but it was surely the end of the beginning”.
    And he was dead right, wasn’t he.

  • Julia


    I’ll keep it too [sic] myself because the last time I got involved in this particular debate on the web it got very, very (very) nasty to say the least.”
    ————————————————————————————————————————-I can easily believe this. Such is the fate of us all with Catholic Fundamentalists  –  and with religious fundamentalists of any flavour.You can readily see where the hatred, torture, burnings, crusades, religious wars…….and the rest, came from (and indeed COMES from).There is certainly, not just “something” about such people – but rather a most unpleasant “lot” about them.

  • theroadmaster

    “Humanae Vitae” was, perhaps, “not the beginning of the end — but it was surely the end of the beginning”. And he was dead right, wasn’t he.

    He was right concerning the demise of moral and social values as the widespread use of contraceptives has contributed to the spiraling numbers of divorces, abortions, STDs, etc across the western world over the last 40 years or more. Hardly an advertisement for social or moral progress, is it? Geraldo

  • vitto

    The convincing you are suggesting has been tried. 99 per cent of Catholics of the relevant age still practice “artificial” contraception.

  • JabbaPapa

    It’s not the job of either the laity or even the ordinary clergy to determine whether Humanae Vitae is either infallible or Authoritative — but it is at the very least Authoritative, and it must therefore be adhered to.

    It has not AFAIK been declared officially as infallible by either the CdF or the Pope, so that disagreeing with it won’t remove you from Communion with the Church — which is hardly the same thing as meaning that everyone can disagree with it as much as they like.

  • JabbaPapa

    a non-infallible teaching, however long-standing or authoritative, cannot be regarded as binding on anyone’s conscience

    Wrong

    All Authoritative teachings are binding on our Catholic consciences.

    The non-infallibility of Humanae Vitae simply means that it is not a mortal sin to disagree with it.

  • JabbaPapa

    Meanwhile, all those atheist fundamentalists out there are nothing but sweetness and light, eh ?

    Wars of atheists against atheists are undoubtedly FAR better and FAR kinder than any nasty old religious wars, eh ?

    And it must be MUCH nicer to be tortured by an atheist instead of by an Islamist.

  • JabbaPapa

    You are confusing “authoritative” with “infallible”.

  • JabbaPapa

    I can only assume, given the very odd contents of your post, that you do not actually understand what infallibility actually means.

    It means that Catholics may not express any disagreement with any doctrine declared as infallible, under penalty of automatic excommunication if they should do so.

    It is not a “supernatural” power.

  • JabbaPapa

    Dawkins locutus est — rident omnes

  • mollysdad

    No, I’m not. The teaching of HV is infallible because it in fact sets forth a truth which has been unanimously and definitively received as such by Catholic tradition. Unanimity and the definitive character of reception of a point of faith or morals is proof of infallibility.

  • mollysdad

    Wrong! HV represents the authentic teaching of the Church, and dissent would be a mortal sin of disobedience. Independent of any other consideration, contraception is idolatrous because it attacks the reason for the law against idolatry.

  • Ogard

    “HV failed
    to make a compelling case against contraception. The issue is dead and buried.”
    So says  Alexander VI. The error is in
    his notion of the “compelling case”. He seems to think that the encyclicals are
    political or scientific documents the aim of which is to “persuade people”, and
    not the teaching documents the aim of which is to articulate the received
    Message in new circumstances. The Church cannot change this Message, regardless
    of whether or not it “is laughable” to those who are determined to reject it.

    The key
    passage in HV is this: “…certain approaches and criteria for a solution of this
    question had emerged which were at variance with the moral doctrines on
    marriage constantly taught by the Magisterium” (No.6). Pius XII and Pius XI
    refer to this constant teaching too. It was articulated by “auctores probati”
    during the first half of the 20 century and throughout the 19th
    century (Ford and Grisez, in the essay Contraception and Infallibility of the
    Ordinary Magisterium, published in Theological Studies 1978, have consulted
    some forty manuals; the whole essay can also be consulted on Grisez’ website);
    it can be found in the Roman  Catechism (“of
    the Council of Trent”), in Aquinas, Jerome, Augustine, Chrysostom… and some
    others.

    Hans Kung (Infallible?
    An enquiry, pp. 54-55) quotes from D. Callahan: The Catholic Case for
    Contraception: “…history provides the fullest evidence (c.f. Noonan:
    Contraception…) that the answer of the Church has always and everywhere been
    the same from the beginning up to the present decade (my note: the quote is
    from 1969). One can find no period of history, no document of the Church, no
    theological school, scarcely one Catholic theologian, who ever denied that the
    contraception was always seriously evil. The teaching of the Church in this
    matter is absolutely constant. Until the present century this teaching was
    peacefully possessed by all other Christians….For in answer to this question
    there has never been any variation and scarcely any evolution in the
    teaching…Therefore it is not a question of a teaching proposed in 1930 (Pius
    XI: Casti connubii, my note) which because of new physiological facts and new
    theological perspectives ought to be changed. It is a question rather of a
    teaching which until the present decade was constantly and authentically taught
    by the church”.

    Kung goes
    on: “How is one to respond to this? There are only two alternatives. One either
    accepts it as infallible and unalterable doctrine, as the commission minority
    and the Pope did …or one questions the whole theory of infallibility. The progressive
    majority failed to gain acceptance for its views because it failed to see its
    dilemma as clearly as its Curial opponents did.”

    Subsequently,
    the doctrine has been massively confirmed by John Paul II, and the world
    episcopate (Catechism).  

  • chartres

    Infallible or not, Humanae Vitae has been proved to be logical and prophetic. 
     It is a handbook for the survival of a civilisation.
     European demographics are changing for the worse because indigenous Europeans have adopted secular destructive lifestyles. The sexual revolution has had a devastating effect on those societies that have embraced it.The primacy of the individual trumps the common good. The outlook for the economy is bleak and will certainly worsen if the population ages.The population void in Europe will be filled unfortunately by others culturally less talented.Humanae Vitae is reason being applied to religious faith and should be humbly accepted as good teaching

  • Philothea

    Wrong! The point at issue is the alleged infallibility of HV. Since it has not been defined as infallible it is not a mortal sin to disagree with it, as JabbaPapa says. (How then can it be binding?). According to canon law (canon 988.2) there is no obligation to confess non-grave (mortal) sins, only a recommendation to do so. Those who do not find it helpful to do so, therefore, can in good conscience continue to use contraception and not confess it. I think they will settle for that, as they have been doing for many years.

  • snafu

    When it broke, there were various blog links to this video, but they all pointed to some ghastly sharing site that insisted that I install their custom-download software.

    Does anyone know if the talk is available elsewhere, or even better, on Youtube?

  • Ogard

    What the “Vatican
    spokesman said” was not infallible, nor was he “acting under the authority of
    its author Paul VI” but on his own.  Hans
    Kung claims that he caused the “great displeasure” in Vatican, and that the
    “incident is said to have been the reason why he was soon afterwards relieved
    of this duties and appointed  Archbishop” (Infallible? An Inquiry, p. 50) somewhere
    in Italy. A friend of mine who studied in Rome said to me that it is a standard
    practice of Roman authorities, when it comes to a problem of disposing with
    useless prelates, to make them bishops in one of the numerous Italian dioceses.

    Philothea has not
    told what the “spokesman” said exactly. Supposing he claimed
    that the Humanae vitae “did not come with the Church’s definition of
    infallibility” – so what? The infallible teaching covers much more than those
    few infallible definitions: as far as I know very few moral norms, if any, have
    been infallibly defined. In fact, no infallible definition is possible, had not
    the matter been already infallibly taught by the Ordinary Magisterium. For
    conditions, see LG 25/2; and for commentary, Ford and Grisez: Contraception and
    Infallibility of the Ordinary Magisterium (the essay has been published in
    Theological Studies, but it can be also found on Grisez’ website).

    And the
    consensus of moral theological “auctores probati” is that even the
    “non-infallible” teachings are binding for Catholic conscience.

  • mollysdad

    No one who claims to be a Christian can in good conscience commit the idolatry of contraception. It interferes with the liberty of God to create human beings, which He has seen fit to make dependent on human fertility. It is not lawful for A to limit the liberty of B unless A has authority over B.

  • Philothea

    As I said, we are in something of a fantasy world here. See the comment by Julia below. Once saddled with the notion of papal infallibility the only sensible course is that of John XXIII, who famously said that as pope he had the power to make infallible statements but he was never going to use it. A pity others do not have his Christlike humility. God is infallible. When you know God you do not need any human beings to be infallible.

  • rjt1

    We all claim to be infallible in some circumstances: e.g. 2 + 2 = 4.

    Some claim to know infallibly that infallibility is impossible.

  • Alan

    I get the very strong impression that those who would like Humanae Vitae to be infallible claim it is so, while those who would not like it to be infallible, whether because they don’t agree with it or because they don’t consider it sufficiently fundamental to Christian faith, claim it not to be.  That doesn’t get us very far.
    It also seems to me that, if it were in fact intended to be  infallible, this would have been made unambiguously clear, both at the time and subsequently.  It was not, and has not been.

  • Ogard

     
    Humanae vitae is not about “papal” infallibility, but about the infallibility of the Ordinary Magisterium of which the teaching on contraception in that Encyclical is only a recent articulation. See my reply to Alexander VI.
    Hans Kung, although himself a dissenter, has shown very powerfully that the teaching has been proposed infallibly, according to what he refers to as “the Roman doctrine of the infallibility of the magisterium ordinarium in all its continuity, coherence ad firmness” (p. 51).
    For the sake of those who do not know, let me summarise that the infallibility (which means that the doctrine concerned is true, and if it is true it cannot be mistaken) is usually exercised in the ordinary, day to day teaching of the bishops in communion with the pope, and that such teaching, although infallible if the conditions articulated in LG 25/2 have been met, does not constitute a definition. The latter is relatively rare, extraordinary, act of an ecumenical council (with the pope) or of a pope, but such a definition is merely a clearly focused proposition of what has been already proposed infallibly by the Ordinary Magisterium.
    For example, there were no infallible definitions during the first two centuries: the faith in Christ’s divinity was an infallible, day to day teaching of the Ordinary Magisterium, which when challenged by the Arians, has been defined by the Council of Nicea, in precise terms. But had the fathers of that Council not had behind them the Ordinary teaching of the previous centuries, they would not have been able to define anything.
    The first Christians have faced martyrdom, without asking whether the moral obligation to face it had been infallibly defined.

  • James

    The Labour MP Gerald Kaufman dubbed the 1983 Labour election manifesto “The longest suicide note in history”. Not so: it was the second longest. “Humanae Vitae” was the longest suicide note in history.

  • Alan

    I agree that the easy availability of contraceptives has had some very bad effects in society.  But to argue that, therefore, the use of a contraceptive is, in any possible circumstance, immoral, is false reasoning.  You could equally argue that the consumption of alcohol is always immoral, because it has some very bad effects in society.  You could say the same about gambling; indeed I have heard (non-Catholic) Christians argue that gambling is an abuse of God’s gifts, and express horror at seeing notices about raffles in a Catholic Church.  If you want to condemn any and every use of a contraceptive, you have to go deeper than talking about bad effects in society.

  • JabbaPapa

    Disobedience is, quite obviously, not a mortal sin.

    Are you confusing it with heresy or apostasy ?

  • JabbaPapa

    The above is is filled with inaccuracies.

    Hans Kung, although himself a dissenter, has shown very powerfully that the teaching has been proposed infallibly

    Hans Küng is forbidden from teaching theology, and he should consequently never be listened to.

    His authority to declare this or that doctrine as infallible or otherwise is exactly ZERO.

    infallibility (which means that the doctrine concerned is true, and if it is true it cannot be mistaken)

    Wrong.

    It means that all Catholics must adhere to the doctrine, and that no Catholic may deny it.

    Several doctrines exist which are infallible for essentially disciplinary reasons — several other doctrines exist which must be held as true, but have not been provided with the charism of infallibility.

    The great majority of “armchair theologians” have no real understanding of the actual relationships between infallible, authoritative, fallible, pastoral, disciplinary, and other qualifications of doctrine.

    Hans Küng is wrong in his assessment — the fact that the ordinary Magisterium must be considered in its entirety as being infallible does not require that every single doctrine provided in that Magisterium is therefore infallible.

    It is just another of his weaselly attacks against the doctrine of infallibility itself, and you should not let your conscience be manipulated by him.

    For example, there were no infallible definitions during the first two centuries

    This is complete tosh.

    Several infallible doctrines are included in the New Testament, just for starters. “Jesus is the Son of God”, for example.

  • JabbaPapa

    Declarations of infallibility by the Magisterium are the only proof of infallibility.

    I really *do* wish that people didn’t get so excited about infallibility and fallibility, misunderstandings concerning the various properties of doctrine are very commonplace these days.

  • JabbaPapa

    Hans Küng has been forbidden from teaching theology, and should consequently never be listened to.

  • JabbaPapa

    2+2=4 is not infallible.

    Infallible is at its heart a synonym of “undeniable” — it means that Catholics are required to never deny any infallible doctrine.

    *Usually* this is because the doctrine is held to be absolutely true, but there can be disciplinary or even pastoral reasons informing some declarations of doctrinal infallibility.

  • mollysdad

    Disobedience to legitimate public authority when what it commands is not sinful usually is a mortal sin. So is idolatry, which involves appropriating to a creature something God has reserved to Himself. Such as the final decision as to whether a new human being will be created or not.

  • JabbaPapa

    I get the very strong impression that those who would like Humanae Vitae
    to be infallible claim it is so, while those who would not like it to
    be infallible, whether because they don’t agree with it or because they
    don’t consider it sufficiently fundamental to Christian faith, claim it
    not to be.  That doesn’t get us very far.
    It also seems to me that,
    if it were in fact intended to be  infallible, this would have been made
    unambiguously clear, both at the time and subsequently.  It was not,
    and has not been.

    It’s a common tactic by some political agitators in the Church, yes, to claim as “infallible” whichever statement happens to agree with their own views, regardless of the fact that no declaration of infallibility actually exists. The same sorts of people who think that whichever fallible teachings of the Church they happen to dislike may be freely disregarded (to be fair, this is usually a Modernist tactic, not often used by other dissenting factions).

    Humanae Vitae is an Authoritative document, and as such it MUST be adhered to by Catholics. BUT it is not infallible, so that it is only a venial sin, not a mortal sin, to express rejection of the document, or to disobey its teachings.

    But yes, to do so IS sinful, and is condemned.

    It’s really not very complicated, and all this uninformed chit-chat about infallibility is simply creating some totally pointless confusion.

  • theroadmaster

    I listed precisely the very negative effects of widespread contraception and intentionally did not allude to the consequences of it in every situation. So I don’t know what profound point if any, that you are trying to make.
    A contraceptive pill or device are not in themselves malign or threatening. But it is the context and motivation which proves the moral intent in regard to their use. Thus if they are used to frustrate the procreative side of the sexual act, they go against the natural reproductive order which the Creator ordained. Sex is seen by many as a recreational past-time, to be indulged in by couples with no thoughts of the moral consequences in relation to chastity or marriage. It has led to an ever increasing number of abortions, divorces and STDs across the western world over the last 40 years or more. Contraception has been used for other purposes, in terms of female medical problems, but the vast majority of women who use it, want to control their fertility and prevent procreation taking place. So it would be disingenuous of your or anybody else to concentrate on the minority reasoning for utilizing it as against the motivations of the vast majority. Geraldo

  • Alan

    “Humanae Vitae is an Authoritative document, and as such it MUST be adhered to by Catholics. BUT it is not infallible, so that it is only a venial sin, not a mortal sin, to express rejection of the document, or to disobey its teachings.But yes, to do so IS sinful, and is condemned.”
    I don’t think I’ve heard quite that view before, which seems to come between some views (that it is “infallible”) and others (that it should be taken into account but can be rejected in conscience).  How am I to know that your view is the correct one?  Is it laid down somewhere?
    For the record, I have read that Paul VI was actually on the point of accepting the majority view of the Commission which had been set up, but was dissuaded from so doing by the argument that it would go against previous teaching and would thus cause confusion among the faithful.  This may or may not be true.

  • Parasum

    If Humanae Vitae is *not* infallible, then it’s not. “Loyalty” is a political category, not a theological one. Loyalty is fine for the ideologues of the Party, but wholly out of place in a Christian thinker, who has to follow truth and the Spirit Who gives it whithersoever it may lead, regardless of the institution. It is not logical or good theology or sound doctrine to argue from the practical accuracy of an encyclical back to its infallibility; and asserting its infallibility does not show in what sense it is infallible: whether as a definition, or in its content and not as a definition, or in what part of its content.

    A letter can be binding, in varying degrees and from various motives, w/o being infallible.

    HV can hardly be infallible as it stands, unless all of it is a definition, or has already been defined. If the entire document were infallible, iit would hardly be distinguishable from the Bible.  In theory at least, public revelation is long ended.