Posts Tagged ‘magisterium’
Questions (from a reader):
- An FB friend posted online: ‘I don’t have any problem’s with God, just his fan club.’ He reacted to the news about the CBCP being against the anti-discrimination bill. I think the question is: Would you need the Church (by extension, trust, and obedience to its bishops) to be a Catholic and believe in God?
In his Rules for Thinking, Judging, and Feeling with the Church, St. Ignatius of Loyola wrote:
The Thirteenth Rule. To keep ourselves right in all things, we ought to hold fast to this principle: What I see as white, I will believe to be black if the hierarchical Church thus determines it. For we believe that between Christ our Lord, the Bridegroom, and the Church, his Spouse, there is the one same Spirit who governs and guides us for the salvation of our souls. For it is by the same Spirit and Lord of ours who gave the ten commandments that our holy Mother Church is guided and governed.
The hierarchical church–pope, bishops, and priests–received its ministry from the apostles through a succession of laying of hands (ordination). Jesus said to his 72 disciples whom he sent to all of Israel: “Whoever listens to you listens to me. Whoever rejects you rejects me. And whoever rejects me rejects the one who sent me” (Lk 10:16). Such is the authority of those whom Christ sent. An ambassador of the king represents the king and bears his word. If you reject the word of the king’s ambassador, you reject the king. In the same way, since the priests, bishops, and pope are the ambassadors of Christ our King, if we don’t listen to them, we also do not listen to Christ, thereby rejecting him and the one who sent Him (the Father). Thus, it is impossible to be Catholic and not to listen to the Church.
It would be well to reread the Catechism regarding the faithful’s assent of faith to the Church’s Magisterium or Teaching Authority:
891 ”The Roman Pontiff, head of the college of bishops, enjoys this infallibility in virtue of his office, when, as supreme pastor and teacher of all the faithful – who confirms his brethren in the faith he proclaims by a definitive act a doctrine pertaining to faith or morals. . . . The infallibility promised to the Church is also present in the body of bishops when, together with Peter’s successor, they exercise the supreme Magisterium,” above all in an Ecumenical Council.418 When the Church through its supreme Magisterium proposes a doctrine “for belief as being divinely revealed,”419 and as the teaching of Christ, the definitions “must be adhered to with the obedience of faith.”420 This infallibility extends as far as the deposit of divine Revelation itself.421
892 Divine assistance is also given to the successors of the apostles, teaching in communion with the successor of Peter, and, in a particular way, to the bishop of Rome, pastor of the whole Church, when, without arriving at an infallible definition and without pronouncing in a “definitive manner,” they propose in the exercise of the ordinary Magisterium a teaching that leads to better understanding of Revelation in matters of faith and morals. To this ordinary teaching the faithful “are to adhere to it with religious assent”422 which, though distinct from the assent of faith, is nonetheless an extension of it.
I. The School Forum on MVP’s Speech
I attended the forum on MVP’s commencement speech yesterday. There were four speakers, but I can remember only two: Fr. Ben Nebres, S.J. and Mr. Leland de la Cruz. Fr. Ben announced the resignation of MVP and he emphasized the Board of Trustee’s decision was based on Catholic Moral Theology: there are many mitigating factors to the deed and among them are full knowledge and consent. Leland, on the other hand, talked about the hurt experienced by other members of the Ateneo community. His question is essentially on how do we reconcile the academic honesty we teach to our students with MVP’s speech. I admire Leland for his courage.
I did not share my opinion in the forum. I only listened. I noticed that those who speak in favor of BOT are generally older teachers and those who speak in favor of Leland are generally younger. If you ask my opinion, I shall say that this issue is beyond my competence as a blogger. I cannot directly quote from the Catechism or from a papal encyclical. This is not a doctrinal problem, but something academic or something on the question of personal culpability which I am not competent to judge. And besides, MVP and the Board of Trustees are not my colleague: they are my superiors. I can air my disagreement to my colleague’s opinions, but for those of my superiors, I shall prefer to be mum and let those in authority decide on the issue. My code of conduct is governed by St. Ignatius 10th Rule for Thinking, Judging, and Feeling with the Church:
Rule 10. We ought to be more inclined to approve and praise the decrees, recommendations, and conduct of our superiors than to speak against them. For although in some cases their acts are not or were not praiseworthy, to speak against them either by preaching in public or by conversing among the ordinary people would cause more murmuring and scandal than profit. And through this the people would become angry at their officials, whether civil or spiritual. However, just as it does harm to speak evil about officials among the ordinary people while they are absent, so it can be profitable to speak of their bad conduct to persons who can bring about a remedy.
I haven’t seen the letter of Leland’s group before it was published on the web. And many faculty members haven’t seen it. It would have been better if they shared it with all the faculty first, get the pulse of the community, and broadcast it afterward. More could have added their names on the list. But that is only in hindsight.
II. The Continuing Scandals: LADLAD and the Reproductive Health Bill
One faculty walked to one of the microphones to speak her opinion. And she passed behind my chair. And while passing by I heard her whisper something to this effect: “the Catholic teaching on … is next.” From the tone of her voice and murmurs I hear I can sense that she is referring to the issue of the Reproductive Health Bill which many faculty signed in support of the bill. For this matter I can speak my mind, because I will not be speaking my mind but the mind of the Church: I shall simply quote Humanae Vitae:
Neither is it valid to argue, as a justification for sexual intercourse which is deliberately contraceptive, that a lesser evil is to be preferred to a greater one, or that such intercourse would merge with procreative acts of past and future to form a single entity, and so be qualified by exactly the same moral goodness as these. Though it is true that sometimes it is lawful to tolerate a lesser moral evil in order to avoid a greater evil or in order to promote a greater good,” it is never lawful, even for the gravest reasons, to do evil that good may come of it (18)—in other words, to intend directly something which of its very nature contradicts the moral order, and which must therefore be judged unworthy of man, even though the intention is to protect or promote the welfare of an individual, of a family or of society in general. Consequently, it is a serious error to think that a whole married life of otherwise normal relations can justify sexual intercourse which is deliberately contraceptive and so intrinsically wrong. (section 14, par. 3)
Danton Remoto, the founding chairman of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgendered party list group LADLAD sits somewhere to my left. From the mention of the word “ladlad” which means “to lay bare in public” in one of the opinion presentations on MVP’s speech, I can see some nods in approval of LADLAD. This is the second continuing scandal in Ateneo de Manila University: you have a professor in a Catholic University which pushes for the adoption of homosexual norms in the government, in defiance of Catholic moral teaching on homosexuality as stated in the Catechism.
Unlike MVP who admitted his error, the proponents of the Reproductive Health Bill and LADLAD in Ateneo continued to claim to know better than the Church’s Magisterium. Fr. Ben Nebres’s appeal to Catholic teaching on full knowledge and consent for the sinful deed to be grave falls on deaf ears: you have a group of faculty members who do not anymore believe in the Church’s teaching authority. If the Catholic Church can err in its teaching on contraception and homosexuality, then the Catholic Church can also err in its teaching on venial and mortal sins.
The disobedience to Church’s teaching authority also leads to another thing: the spirit of dissent to authority in general. Dissent begets dissent. I saw this years ago when the Vice President for Loyola Schools, Dr. Cuyegkeng, was standing in front of the students explaining the new University dress code–a code for modesty as a guardian of chastity. Some Faculty members and Student leaders lambasted her in her face. They find it difficult to follow a simple rule as to dress decently when you are in school. Where is academic freedom in that? they say, forgetting that students come to the Ateneo not to tell Ateneo what to do, but rather to be formed by Ateneo in the Jesuit Catholic tradition. You don’t talk down to the Vice President; you entreat her in deference to her position, to the dignity of the office that she represents. And I feel that the wording of the letter in response to the BOT’s decision on MVP could also have been written in the same spirit: the spirit of entreaty and deference.
Infallibility and Contraception: a Reply to Fr. Genilo, S.J., Fr. Tanseco, S.J., and Bishop Bacani by Paul Gerard Horrigan, Ph.D.
Source: Splendor of the Church
In an email to Federico Pascual Jr.’s column “Postscript,” printed in the December 23, 2008 edition of the newspaper Philippine Star, Fr. Eric M. O. Genilo, S.J. Assistant Professor of Moral Theology at the Loyola School of Theology, Ateneo de Manila University wrote: “The word ‘infallibility’ has been often abused by both lay people and some clerics to bolster their moral arguments, as most recently seen in the debates on the Reproductive Health Bill. Your presentation is correct in saying that infallibility is only asserted by the Pope ex cathedra and is rarely used.
“Generally, a papal document has to state explicitly that the pope declares the teaching infallible. Thus Humanae Vitae is not an infallible document – it is still authoritative at the highest level but is open to improvement.
“…There is in the Vatican II documents another way of asserting infallibility, not by ex cathedra statement, but by the ordinary teaching authority of the Church which has a number of conditions that require practically universal agreement on a matter of faith or morals.
“So far no teaching has been universally accepted and formally recognized as infallible using this alternative method. Not even Humanae Vitae…” 
Contrary to the above assertions, I maintain that Fr. Genilo, S.J.’s understanding of papal infallibility is seriously wrong: it restricts papal infallibility to solemn ex cathedra definitions (he writes: “infallibility is only asserted by the Pope ex cathedra and is rarely used”), not taking into account that Pope Paul VI’s condemnation of contraception in the Encyclical Humanae Vitae is, in fact, an infallible exercise of the ordinary papal magisterium.
Aside from contraception, the Church’s condemnations of the intrinsic evils, for example, of direct abortion, homosexual acts, adultery, fornication, masturbation, and euthanasia, have also been taught infallibly  by the universal ordinary magisterium. The core of Catholic moral teaching as summarized in the Ten Commandments, precisely as these precepts have been traditionally understood by the Church (e.g., the Roman Catechism), has, in fact, been taught infallibly by the universal ordinary magisterium. Yet Fr. Genilo, S.J., following fellow dissenter Francis Sullivan, S.J., asserts that no specific moral norms have been proposed infallibly by the universal ordinary magisterium. The reason for this assertion is because, according to Sullivan and many other proportionalists, the Church simply cannot teach infallibly by its ordinary magisterium any specific moral norm, an erroneous claim made based on 1. the misunderstanding of Canon 749, paragraph 3 of the 1983 Code of Canon Law (Canon 1312, paragraph 3 of the 1917 Code) which would limit infallibility to solemn ex cathedra definitions ; 2. the denial of moral absolutes in the area of specific moral norms because of their assertion that no object chosen can be intrinsically evil in view of their notion of an act as a “whole” or “totality,” where an object freely chosen such as contraception, for example, traditionally condemned as intrinsically evil, becomes for them a mere physical, ontic or premoral, and not moral, evil, and justified when done by couples for proportionate reasons  ; 3. the denial of moral absolutes because of the ongoing and open-ended character of human experience ; and 4. because of the adoption of Rahner’s dualistic transcendental anthropology which holds that “concrete” human nature, different from “transcendental” human nature, is subject to radical change. 
Fr. Genilo, S.J. asserts in his writings and Ateneo handouts that the Church’s doctrine on contraception is not infallible, and therefore, one can responsibly dissent from it. He maintains that the Church’s teaching on contraception is wrong and that married couples can practice contraception for proportionate reasons. In his Ateneo course handout notes to his students, Fr. Genilo, S.J. counsels married couples to use non abortive contraceptives. 
Another Ateneo Jesuit, Fr. Ruben Tanseco, who has openly defied many infallibly taught Church teachings for decades, likewise denies that the universal ordinary magisterium has taught the doctrine on contraception infallibly, and forcefully advocates and counsels the use not only of condoms but even oral contraceptives for married couples  . Oral contraceptives have been scientifically shown to have an abortifacient mechanism  ; nevertheless, Fr. Tanseco, S.J. erroneously denies that birth control pills cause early abortions.
In his 1992 book The Church and Birth Control, Auxiliary Bishop of Manila (later bishop of Novaliches) Teodoro C. Bacani, commenting on Pope Paul VI’s Encyclical Humanae Vitae, writes: “Now you ask: is the teaching of the pope against contraception an infallible statement? And the answer is: it is not! In other words, is there a possibility that the pope can be mistaken? The honest answer is, ‘Yes, there is a possibility that the pope is mistaken.”  16 years later, in his book, Catholics and HB 5043 (Reproductive Health Bill, 2008), Bishop Emeritus of Novaliches Bacani still maintains his dissent on the question of contraception, writing: “We accept the Church’s teaching against direct contraception and direct sterilization, as official Catholic teaching, or authoritative teaching without claiming that it is infallible and irreversible.” 
Against Fr. Genilo, S.J., Fr. Tanseco, S.J. and Bishop Bacani, I hold that the specific norm condemning contraception as taught by Pope Paul VI in Humanae Vitae is infallible by the ordinary papal magisterium, and that this doctrine has been taught infallibly by the universal ordinary magisterium, meeting the conditions of Vatican II’s Lumen Gentium, no. 25 for its infallible exercise.
Fr. Genilo, S.J., Fr. Tanseco, S.J. and Bishop Bacani are not alone in their dissent from Church teaching on contraception. Dissenters who deny that the Church’s doctrine on contraception has been taught infallibly by the universal ordinary magisterium are legion. These dissenters include Charles E. Curran, Louis Janssens, Karl Rahner, S.J. Bernard Häring, Franz Böckle, Franz Scholz, Bruno Schüller, Timothy E. O’Connell, Daniel Maguire, Peter Chirico, Richard Gula, Richard McCormick, S.J., Francis Sullivan, S.J., Garth Hallett, S.J. and Vincent Genovesi, S.J. These dissenters maintain that the Magisterium’s teaching on contraception is not infallible, is wrong, and must be reversed. Dissenting ex-priest Gregory Baum writes that not only is the teaching of the Church on contraception not infallible but that the Church is incapable of teaching infallibly the natural moral law.  Not only did the influential Jesuit Karl Rahner dissent from Humanae Vitae, but his Kantian-Heideggerian inspired immanentist transcendental theology holds that the possible range of infallible moral teaching extends to “hardly any particular or individual norms of Christian morality,”  such as is, for example, the norm on contraception. This is where he stands, for he, like the misanthropic Heraclitus of old, advocates a human nature in radical flux, in constant evolution, the enduring universal nature of man yielding little in the way of moral maxims.  Sulpician proportionalist Peter Chirico rejects infallibility for all the Church’s specific moral teaching.  In his book Birth Control and Natural Law, Canon Drinkwater denies that the Catholic doctrine on contraception has been taught infallibly by the universal and ordinary magisterium, maintaining the reformability of the teaching.  In his widely read book Magisterium: Teaching Authority in the Catholic Church, Jesuit Francis Sullivan maintains that the Church cannot teach infallibly on the specific norms of the natural moral law.  Another Jesuit, Garth Hallett, denies that infallibility extends to prescriptive moral teachings (those that attempt to command or forbid behaviour).  For Richard McCormick, S.J., the Catholic Church has never taught infallibly in the area of concrete moral norms in the exercise of its ordinary universal magisterium.  For Daniel Maguire , Richard Gula , Peter Chirico , and Charles E. Curran , no specific moral norms taught by the magisterium (norms forbidding the intentional killing of innocent human life [as in direct abortion], adultery, fornication, contraception, direct sterilization, etc.) have been infallibly proposed. In his book Contemporary Problems in Moral Theology, Curran states: “There has never been an infallible pronouncement or teaching on a specific moral matter; the very nature of specific moral actions makes it impossible, in my judgment, to have any infallible pronouncements in this area.” 
On the other hand, able defenders of the magisterium  have not been lacking. Eminent Catholic theologians have written books or articles maintaining that the Catholic Church’s doctrine on contraception has been taught infallibly by the universal ordinary magisterium. These theologians include John C. Ford, S.J. , Germain Grisez , Cardinal Luigi Ciappi, O.P. , former Papal Theologian of the Pontifical Household, John Finnis , Fr. John A. Hardon, S.J. , Marcelino Zalba, S.J. , current Vicar General of Opus Dei Msgr. Fernando Ocariz , Catholic University of America moral theologian William E. May , and Karol Woytyla (later Pope John Paul II), who writes in his commentary on Humanae Vitae published a year after the Encyclical: “The teaching of the Encyclical Humanae Vitae regarding the essential principles of an ethical regulation of births is marked by all the characteristics of the infallible ordinary teaching of the Church. This means that one is dealing with a teaching based upon the authority of God and imparted in His name.” 
In Vatican II’s Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, Lumen Gentium, no. 25, we find four conditions for the infallible exercise of the universal ordinary magisterium, namely:
1. That the bishops be in communion with one another and with the Pope;
2. That they teach authoritatively on a matter of faith and morals;
3. That they agree in one judgment; and
4. That they propose this as something to be held definitively.
The first condition, that the bishops be in communion with one another and with the Pope, does not mean that they must formally act as a body in a strictly collegial manner. Rather, it is necessary and sufficient that these bishops remain bishops within the Catholic Church.
The second condition, that the bishops teach authoritatively on a matter of faith and morals, requires that the bishops be acting in their official capacity as teachers, and not merely expressing their opinion as private individuals or as theologians. As regards the subject matter of their teaching – faith or morals – we say that “morals” here, in the sense intended by Vatican II, is not limited in such a way as to exclude specific moral norms, such as the norm condemning contraception.
The third condition, that the bishops agree in one judgment, “identifies universality,” writes Grisez, “as a requirement for an infallible exercise of the ordinary magisterium. What is necessary, however, is the moral unity of the body of bishops in union with the Pope, not an absolute mathematical unanimity such as would be destroyed by even one dissenting voice.
“Furthermore, if this condition has been met in the past, it would not be nullified by a future lack of consensus among bishops. The consensus of future bishops is not necessary for the ordinary magisterium to have taught something infallibly or to do so now. Otherwise, one would be in the absurd position of saying that it is impossible for there to be an infallible exercise of the magisterium until literally the end of time; since at any given moment, one cannot tell what some bishops in the future might say.” 
The fourth condition, that the bishops propose a judgment to be held definitively “means at least this,” explains Grisez: “That the teaching is not proposed as something optional, for either the bishops or the faithful, but as something which the bishops have an obligation to hand on and which Catholics have an obligation to accept.” 
Does the Catholic Church’s doctrine on contraception meet the conditions identified by Vatican II for an infallible exercise of the universal and ordinary magisterium? Yes, it does. In his 1965 historical study, Contraception, John T. Noonan, then a professor of law at the University of Notre Dame, summed up the nearly two thousand year teaching of the Church on the immorality of contraception: “The propositions constituting a condemnation of contraception are, it will be seen, recurrent. Since the first clear mention of contraception by a Christian theologian, when a harsh third century moralist accused a pope of encouraging it, the articulated argument has been the same. In the world of the late Empire known to St. Jerome and St. Augustine, in the Ostrogothic Arles of Bishop Caesarius and the Suevian Braga of Bishop Martin, in the Paris of Albert and St. Thomas, in the Renaissance Rome of Sixtus V and the Renaissance Milan of St. Charles Borromeo, in the Naples of St. Alphonsus Liguori and the Liège of Charles Billuart, in the Philadelphia of Bishop Kenrick, and in the Bombay of Cardinal Gracias, the teachers of the Church have taught without hesitation or variation that certain acts preventing procreation are gravely sinful. No Catholic theologian has ever taught, ‘Contraception is a good act.’ The teaching on contraception is clear and apparently fixed forever.” 
In their essay, Contraception and the Infallibility of the Ordinary Magisterium, John C. Ford, S.J. and Germain Grisez came to the conclusion that the Church’s constant condemnation of contraception throughout her history merits the status of infallibility: “At least until 1962, Catholic bishops in communion with one another and with the Pope agreed in and authoritatively proposed one judgment to be held definitively on the morality of contraception: Acts of this kind, are objectively, intrinsically, and gravely evil. Since this teaching has been proposed infallibly, the controversy since 1963 takes nothing away from its objectively certain truth. It is not the received Catholic teaching on contraception which needs to be rethought. It is the assumption that this teaching could be abandoned as false which needs to be rethought.” 
Russell Shaw, former Secretary for Public Affairs for the United States National Conference of Catholic Bishops, explains that the Church’s teaching on contraception was not just universally taught by the magisterium, but also proposed to Catholics as something to be held definitively. He gives a number of considerations in support of this position, as well as incorporating statements on contraception by Popes Pius XI, Pius XII, and Paul VI:
“The first consideration is a negative one. No evidence has come to light that anyone proposed this teaching as a private opinion, a probable judgment, or a lofty ideal which there was no blame in failing to achieve. It was proposed instead as an obligatory moral teaching.
“Second, the teaching is that contraceptive acts are the matter of mortal sin. Third, when in modern times the teaching was challenged from outside the Church, it was repeated with insistence and emphasis. Fourth, the teaching was often proposed as a divinely revealed moral norm…The point is significant for the light it sheds on the intention of those proposing the teaching. If, in doing so, they contended that the teaching was divinely revealed, this can only mean that they proposed it as something to be held definitively; they would hardly have done the contrary – i.e., at the same time maintained that the teaching was divinely revealed yet proposed it as something which need not be held definitively.
“Having reached this point, it is useful briefly to examine the major statements on contraception by Pius XI, Pius XII, and Paul VI and to do so in light of what has been said up to now.
“In condemning contraception as a sin against nature, Pius XI appeals to Scripture, to Augustine’s exegesis of Genesis 38:9-10, and to the constancy of the Church’s tradition. He declares himself to be restating, on behalf of the Catholic Church, something willed by God and pertaining to salvation.  Pius XII, officially summarizing the teaching of his predecessor, says he solemnly proclaimed anew the fundamental law concerning the procreative act. He states the matter emphatically: ‘This teaching is as valid today as it was yesterday; and it will be the same tomorrow and always.’  Paul VI is less emphatic but no less clear. He says among other things that it would be impossible to accept some conclusions of his Commission for the Study of Problems of Population, Family, and Birthrate because they are not compatible with ‘the moral doctrine on matrimony, proposed by the magisterium of the Church with constant firmness’ (Humanae Vitae, 6). He speaks of ‘the constant teaching of the Church’ (ibid, 10 and 11), says the Church by its teaching on contraception ‘promulgates the divine law’ (ibid, 20), and declares the teaching on contraception to be part of the ‘saving teaching of Christ’ (ibid, 29).” 
Shaw concludes, stating:
“…Thus, a review of the data establishes that the teaching on contraception has been proposed in a manner which meets Vatican II’s criteria for an infallible exercise of the ordinary magisterium.” 
One main reason dissenters use to justify their negation of the infallibility of specific moral norms is the claim that they have never been manifestly demonstrated to be infallibly defined, and utilize canon 749, par. 3 of the 1983 Code of Canon Law to justify their claim. Canon 749, paragraph 3 reads: “No doctrine is to be understood as infallibly defined unless this is manifestly demonstrated.” Dissenters Charles E. Curran  and Francis A. Sullivan, S.J.  appeal to this paragraph, asserting that it is not manifestly demonstrated that any specific moral norms have ever been infallibly defined. But following Germain Grisez , Canon 749, paragraph 3 in fact refers to infallible definitions of the solemn extraordinary magisterium, not to teachings infallibly proposed by the universal ordinary magisterium. Curran and Sullivan conveniently overlook the preceding paragraph of Canon 749, which states: “The College of Bishops also possess infallibility in its teaching when…the bishops, dispersed throughout the world but maintaining the bond of communion among themselves and with the successor of Peter, together with the same Roman Pontiff authoritatively teach matters of faith or morals, and are agreed that a particular teaching is definitively to be held.”  Dissenters like Curran and Sullivan simply fail to consider whether any specific moral norms have been infallibly proposed by the ordinary day-to-day exercise of the magisterium, according to the criteria articulated in Lumen Gentium, no. 25. In their equating infallibly proposed teachings with teachings that are solemnly defined they do not take into account the possibility that certain specific moral norms have been proposed infallibly by the exercise of the universal ordinary magisterium.
The ordinary Papal Magisterium can teach, and has taught, specific moral norms infallibly. For example, the Church’s doctrine on the intrinsic evil of contraception, reaffirmed by Pope Pius XI in Casti Connubii  and by Paul VI in Humanae Vitae , as well as the confirmations of the condemnations of the intrinsic evils of murder (the direct and voluntary killing of an innocent human being) , direct abortion , and euthanasia  by Pope John Paul II in his 1995 Encyclical Evangelium Vitae, are all infallible pronouncements of the ordinary Papal Magisterium. Though they are not solemn ex cathedra definitions, nevertheless, these definitive papal pronouncements on specific moral norms also enjoy the gift of infallibility.
As Archbishop Tarcisio Bertone, S.D.B., then Secretary for the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (now Cardinal Secretary of State of the Vatican), explains in his article which appeared in L’Osservatore Romano on December 20, 1996 (the English translation appearing in the English edition of L’Osservatore Romano on January 29, 1997): “The ordinary papal Magisterium can teach a doctrine as definitive because it has been constantly maintained and held by Tradition and transmitted by the ordinary universal Magisterium. This latter exercise of the charism of infallibility does not take the form of a papal definition, but pertains to the ordinary, universal Magisterium which the Pope again sets forth with his formal pronouncement of confirmation and reaffirmation (generally in an encyclical or apostolic letter). If we were to hold that the Pope must necessarily make an ex cathedra definition whenever he intends to declare a doctrine as definitive because it belongs to the deposit of faith, it would imply an underestimation of the ordinary, universal Magisterium, and infallibility would be limited to the solemn definitions of the Pope or a Council, in a way that differs from the teaching of Vatican I and Vatican II, which attribute an infallible character to the teachings of the ordinary, universal Magisterium. …Although it is not per se a dogmatic definition (like the Trinitarian dogma of Nicea, the Christological dogma of Chalcedon or the Marian dogmas), a papal pronouncement of confirmation enjoys the same infallibility as the teaching of the ordinary, universal Magisterium, which includes the Pope not as a mere Bishop but as the Head of the Episcopal College.” 
In conclusion, let me quote from the Pontifical Council of the Family’s Vademecum for Confessors, issued in 1997, which affirms that the Church’s constant doctrine on the intrinsic evil of contraception is definitive and irreformable: “The Church has always taught the intrinsic evil of contraception, that is, of every marital act intentionally rendered unfruitful. This teaching is to be held as definitive and irreformable. Contraception is gravely opposed to marital chastity; it is contrary to the good of the transmission of life (the procreative aspect of matrimony); it harms true love and denies the sovereign role of God in the transmission of human life.” 
 E. GENILO, email to Federico Pascual’s column “Postscript,” in the Philippine Star, December 23, 2008, paragraphs 2-5.
 “We define infallibility,” writes Fr. James T. O’Connor following Gasser and Vatican I, “as that special gift of God which enables the Catholic Church to hold and propose without error those truths which God intends to be known and held for the sake of our salvation”(J. T. O’CONNOR, The Gift of Infallibility, St. Paul’s, Boston, 1986, pp. 98-99).
 For a critique of this proportionalism, see: W. E. MAY, An Introduction to Moral Theology, Our Sunday Visitor, Huntington, IN, 2003, pp. 156-157.
 For a critique of this position, see: W. E. MAY, op. cit., pp. 157-158.
 For a critique, see: W. E. MAY, op. cit., p. 158. For a thorough and convincing critique of Karl Rahner’s dualistic anthropology underlying his dissent on contraception and other moral norms, see Cornelio Fabro’s La svolta antropologica di Karl Rahner, published by Rusconi, Milan in 1974, especially pages 87-121.
 E. GENILO, THEO 262A Sexual Ethics and Bioethics course handout notes to Ateneo students, 2006, Bioethics Session 13 (Special Interventions to Impede the Transmission of Life), last paragraph.
 Cf. R. TANSECO, God’s Word Today colum
n, Philippine Star, August 8, 2004.
 John Wilks, M.P.S. writes concerning the abortificient mechanism of oral contraceptives: “Both the progesterone-only and the estrogen-progesterone formulations act to cause alterations in the lining of the womb, converting the proliferative nature of the endometrium, which is naturally designed to accept and sustain a fertilised ovum, to a secretory endometrium, which is a thin, devasculating lining, physiologically unreceptive to receiving and sustaining a zygote”(J. WILKS, A Consumer’s Guide to the Pill and Other Drugs, 3rd Ed., National Book Store, Mandaluyong City, 2000, p. 4).
 T. C. BACANI, The Church and Birth Control, Manila, 1992, p. 29.
 T. C. BACANI, Catholics and HB 5043, Gift of God Publications, Manila, 2008, p. 40.
 G. BAUM, The Christian Adventure – Risk and Renewal, “Critic,” 23 (1965), pp. 41-53.
 K. RAHNER, Theological Investigations, vol. 14: Ecclesiology: Questions in the Church, The Church in the World, Seabury Press, New York, 1976, p. 14.
 Cf. K. RAHNER, op. cit., pp. 14-15.
Cf. P. CHIRICO, Infallibility: Crossroads of Doctrine, Sheed, Andrews and McMeel, Kansas City, MO, 1977.
 F. H. DRINKWATER, Birth Control and Natural Law, Helicon, Baltimore, 1965, pp. 39-66.
 F. SULLIVAN, Magisterium: Teac
hing Authority in the Catholic Church, Paulist Press, New York, 1983, p. 152. Grisez refutes Sullivan’s position in G. GRISEZ, Infallibility and Specific Moral Norms: A Review Discussion, “The Thomist,” 49 (1985), pp. 248-287. Sullivan responds to Grisez in: F. SULLIVAN, The Secondary Object of Infallibility, “Theological Studies,” 54 (1993), pp. 536-550. Grisez and Sullivan go another round in The Ordinary Magisterium’s Infallibility: A Reply to Some New Arguments, “Theological Studies,” 55 (1994), pp. 720-738. Sullivan dissents again on the infallibility of the universal ordinary magisterium in: F. SULLIVAN, Creative Fidelity: Weighing and Interpreting Documents of the Magisterium, Paulist Press, New York, 1996.
 G. HALLETT, Contraception and Prescriptive Infallibility, “Theological Studies,” 43 (1982), pp. 629-650. Grisez answers the arguments of Hallett in: G. GRISEZ, Infallibility and Contraception: A Reply to Garth Hallet, “Theological Studies,” 47 (1986), pp. 134-145. In pages 911-912 of his work, Christian Moral Principles, the first volume of his moral theology series The Way of the Lord Jesus (published by Franciscan Herald Press, Chicago, 1983), Grisez gives a summary response to Hallett’s 1982 article.
 R. A. McCORMICK, Authority and Morality, “America,” 142 (1980), p. 169.
 D. MAGUIRE, Morality and the Magisterium, “Cross Currents,” 18 (Winter, 1968), pp. 41-65.
 R. GULA, Reason Informed by Faith: Foundations of Catholic Morality, Paulist Press, New York, 1989, pp. 209-210.
 P. CHIRICO, Infallibility: Crossroads of Doctrine, Sheed, Andrews and McMeel, Kansas City, MO, 1977, pp. 68-83, 185.
 C. E. CURRAN, Humanae Vitae: Ten Years Later, “Commonweal,” 105 (July 7, 1978), p. 429.
 C. E. CURRAN, Contemporary Problems in Moral Theology, Fides, Notre Dame, 1970, p. 257.
 “Magisterium” is the teaching authority of the college of bishops under the headship of the Pope. Grisez defines Magisterium as “the authority and role of the Pope and other bishops, as successors of the apostles, to distinguish what belongs to revelation from what does not, and to guide the receiving, guarding, and explaining of revealed truth. The exercises of this responsibility are divided into extraordinary and ordinary. The extraordinary magisterium embraces all acts of solemnly defining truths of faith and morals, and all teaching of ecumenical councils. The ordinary magisterium is the role as day-to-day teachers of the Pope and other bishops. Under certain conditions the exercise of the ordinary magisterium is infallible”(G. GRISEZ, The Way of the Lord Jesus, vol. 1: Christian Moral Principles, Franciscan Herald Press, Chicago, 1983, p. 922).
 J. C. FORD and G. GRISEZ, Contraception and the Infallibility of the Ordinary Magisterium, “Theological Studies,” 39 (1978), pp. 258-312. Reprinted in The Teaching of ‘Humanae Vitae’: A Defense, Ignatius Press, San Francisco, 1988, pp. 117-219.
 L. CIAPPI, L’enciclica ‘Humanae vitae’: valutazione teologica, “Lateranum,” 54 (1978), pp. 105-124.
 J. FINNIS, Conscience, Infallibility and Contraception, “The Month,” 11 (1978), pp. 410-421.
 J. A. HARDON, Contraception: Fatal to the Faith, catholicculture.org, November, 1998.
 M. ZALBA, Infallibilità del magistero ordinario universale e contraccezione, “Renovatio,” 4 (1979), pp. 79-90.
 F. OCARIZ, La nota teologica dell’insegnamento dell’“Humanae vitae” sulla contraccezione, “Anthropotes,” 1 (1988), pp. 25-43. In this article, Msgr. Ocariz affirms that the doctrine on contraception has been taught infallibly by the universal ordinary magisterium and that one is dealing with a doctrine de fide divina et catholica (of divine and catholic faith).
The Church’s doctrine on contraception is revealed (implicitly) and therefore one is dealing with a doctrine de fide divina et catholica (of divine and catholic faith). Although it is of divine and catholic faith, nevertheless, it is not solemnly defined ex cathedra by the extraordinary magisterium. But the doctrine is infallible, nevertheless.
The Church’s doctrine on contraception pertains to the moral order revealed by God. Pope John Paul II writes that “we are not dealing with a doctrine invented by man: it has been inscribed by the creative hand of God into the very nature of the human person and has been confirmed by Him in Revelation. To question it therefore, is equivalent to denying to God Himself the obedience of our intelligence. It is equivalent to preferring the light of our own reason to that of God’s Wisdom, thereby falling into the obscurity of error and ending up by damaging other fundamental principles of Christian doctrine”(JOHN PAUL II, Address to Participants of the Second International Congress of Moral Theology, November 12, 1988, no. 3).
The doctrine on contraception belongs to the primary object of infallibility (it is a truth which belongs directly to the faith, that is, it belongs to the deposit of faith, though not explicitly, but implicitly) and, not, as is sometimes maintained, to the secondary object of infallibility (as a truth belonging indirectly to the faith, a truth, although not revealed in se, is nevertheless required in order to guard fully, explain properly and define efficaciously the very deposit of faith). In his book, The Gift of Infallibility, James T. O’Connor, explains that “some matters which, at first glance, do not appear to be a part of the deposit of faith directly may, in fact, be so, and thereby pertain to the primary or direct object of infallibility. We may cite as an example the moral norm which declares that ‘every action which, either in anticipation of the conjugal act, or in its accomplishment, or in the development of its natural consequences, proposes, whether as an end or as a means, to render procreation impossible (Encyclical Humanae Vitae, no. 14). This is the way Pope Paul VI phrased the Church’s constant teaching on artificial contraception. It would seem, viewed superficially, that this teaching would pertain to those things which belong to the secondary object of infallibility; it would seem, that is, that such a teaching is not directly revealed, thus not forming part of the deposit of faith. Closer study indicates, however, that such is not the case”(J. T. O’CONNOR, op. cit., pp. 119-120).
Fr. O’Connor then quotes from Pope John Paul II, where the Holy Father writes in 1984 the following concerning the moral norm on contraception contained in Pope Paul VI’s Encyclical Humanae Vitae: “The author of the encyclical stresses that this norm belongs to the ‘natural law,’ that is to say, it is in accordance with reason as such. The Church teaches this norm, although is it is not formally (that is, literally) expressed in Sacred Scripture, and it does this in the conviction that the interpretation of the precepts of natural law belongs to the competence of the Magisterium.
“However, we can say more. Even if the moral law, formulated in this way in the Encyclical Humanae Vitae, is not found literally in Sacred Scripture, nonetheless, from the fact that it is contained in Tradition and – as Pope Paul VI writes – has been ‘very often expounded by the Magisterium’(HV, n. 12) to the faithful, it follows that this norm is in accordance with the sum total of revealed doctrine contained in biblical sources (cf. HV, n. 4).
“4. It is a question here not only of the sum total of the moral doctrine contained in Sacred Scripture, of its essential premises and general character of its content, but of that fuller context to which we have previously dedicated numerous analyses when speaking about the ‘theology of the body.’
“Precisely against the background of this full context it becomes evident that the above-mentioned moral norm belongs not only to the natural moral law, but also to the moral order revealed by God”(JOHN PAUL II, General Audience of 18 July 1984, nos. 3, 4).
Commenting on this passage by the Pope, O’Connor writes: “What the Holy Father is saying is that this moral norm, although not found explicitly or ‘literally’ in Sacred Scripture, forms, nonetheless, part of the revealed moral order and is found implicitly in the sources of Revelation, Sacred Scripture and Tradition. Therefore it belongs to the deposit of faith as well as to the natural moral law, and so is included among the truths which fall under the primary object of infallibility”(J. T. O’CONNOR, op. cit., p. 121).
Revealed (implicitly), and though not solemnly defined ex cathedra, nevertheless, the Church’s doctrine on contraception, taught infallibly by the universal ordinary magisterium, is of divine and catholic faith (de fide divina et catholica).
Quoting from Vatican I’s Dei Filius, the 1983 Code of Canon Law, Canon 750 states: “Those things are to be believed by divine and catholic faith which are contained in the word of God as it has been written or handed down by tradition, that is, in the single deposit of faith entrusted to the Church, and which are at the same time proposed as divinely revealed either by the solemn magisterium of the Church, or by its ordinary and universal magisterium, which is manifested by the common adherance of Christ’s faithful under the guidance of the sacred magisterium. All are therefore bound to shun any contrary doctrines.”
Canon 751 states: “Heresy is the obstinate denial or doubt, after baptism, of a truth which must be believed by divine and catholic faith.”
 W. E. MAY, An Introduction to Moral Theology, Our Sunday Visitor, Huntington, IN, 2003.
 K. WOYTYLA, Introduzione alla Humanae Vitae, Tipografia Poliglotta Vaticana, Vatican City, 1969, p. 35.
 G. GRISEZ, op. cit., p. 843.
 J. T. NOONAN, Contraception: A History of Its Treatment by the Catholic Theologians and Canonists, Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MA, 1965, p. 6. Incredibly, after marshalling hundreds of pages of texts in support of the Church’s constant teaching on the immorality of contraception, Noonan quite illogically dissented from the Church on this issue. He became one of the main players in the dissenting Majority Report of the Commission for the Study of Problems of Population, Family and Birthrate that approved of contraception in certain cases, utilizing the soon to be widespread revisionist method of proportionalism. Though he fought abortion in the 1970s Noonan stubbornly refused to retract his dissent on contraception.
 J. T. FORD and G. GRISEZ, Contraception and the Infallibility of the Ordinary Magisterium, in The Teaching of Humanae Vitae: A Defense, Ignatius Press, San Francisco, 1988, p. 171.
 PIUS XI, Casti Connubii, AAS, 22 (1930), pp. 559-560.
 PIUS XII, Address to Midwives, AAS, 43 (1951), p. 843.
 R. SHAW, Contraception, Infallibility and the Ordinary Magisterium, in Why Humanae Vitae Was Right: A Reader, edited by J. E. Smith, Ignatius Press, San Francisco, 1994, pp. 354-355.
 R. SHAW, op. cit., p. 355.
 C. E. CURRAN et al., Dissent In and For the Church: Theologians and ‘Humanae Vitae,’ Sheed and Ward, New York, 1969, p. 63.
 F. A. SULLIVAN, op. cit., pp. 150, 227, n. 44
 G. GRISEZ, Infallibility and Specific Moral Norms: A Review Discussion, “The Thomist,” 49 (1985), p. 273.
 CODE OF CANON LAW, Typis Polyglottis Vaticanis, Vatican City, 1983, Canon 749, par. 2 (emphasis mine).
 Moral theologian Ramon Garcia de Haro quotes Pius XI: “Since, therefore, openly departing from the uninterrupted Christian tradition some recently have judged it possible solemnly to declare another doctrine regarding this question, the Catholic Church, to whom God has entrusted the defense of the integrity and purity of morals…in order that she may preserve the chastity of the nuptial union from being defiled by this foul stain, raises her voice in token of her divine ambassadorship and through our mouth proclaims anew: any use whatsoever of marriage exercised in such a way that the act is deliberately deprived of its natural power to generate life is an offense against the law of God and of nature, and those who indulge in such are branded with the guilt of a grave sin.”(no. 57). Garcia De Haro then states: “The terms used leave no doubt: we are dealing here with a definitive teaching of the ordinary and universal Magisterium and, therefore, one that is infallible”(R. GARCIA DE HARO, Marriage and the Family in the Documents of the Magisterium, Ignatius Press, San Francisco, 1993, p. 132).
 PAUL VI, Humanae Vitae, no. 14: “Therefore we base our words on the first principles of a human and Christian doctrine of marriage when we are obliged once more to declare…excluded is every action which, either in anticipation of the conjugal act, or in its accomplishment, or in the development of its natural consequences, proposes, whether as an end or as a means, to render procreation impossible.” Cf. R. GARCIA DE HARO, op. cit., p. 307.
 JOHN PAUL II, Evangelium Vitae, no. 57: “By the authority which Christ conferred upon Peter and his Successors, and in communion with the Bishops of the Catholic Church, I confirm that the direct and voluntary killing of an innocent human being is always gravely immoral. This doctrine, based upon that unwritten law which man, in the light of reason, finds in his own heart (cf. Rom 2:14-15), is reaffirmed by Sacred Scripture, transmitted by the Tradition of the Church and taught by the ordinary and universal Magisterium.” Cf. W. E. MAY, op. cit., p. 249.
 JOHN PAUL II, op. cit., no. 62: “By the authority which Christ conferred upon Peter and his Successors, in communion with the Bishops – who on various occasions have condemned abortion and who in the aforementioned consultation, albeit dispersed throughout the world, have shown unanimous agreement concerning this doctrine – I declare that direct abortion, that is, abortion willed as an end or as a means, always constitutes a grave moral disorder, since it is the deliberate killing of an innocent human being. This doctrine is based upon the natural law and upon the written Word of God, is transmitted by the Church’s Tradition and taught by the ordinary and universal Magisterium.”
“No circumstance, no purpose, no law whatsoever can ever make licit an act which is intrinsically illicit, since it is contrary to the Law of God which is written in every human heart, knowable by reason itself, and proclaimed by the Church.”
 JOHN PAUL II, op. cit., no. 65: “In harmony with the Magisterium of my Predecessors and in communion with the Bishops of the Catholic Church, I confirm that euthanasia is a grave violation of the law of God, since it is the deliberate and morally unacceptable killing of a human person. This doctrine is based upon the natural law and upon the written word of God, is transmitted by the Church’s Tradition and taught by the ordinary and universal Magisterium.”
 T. BERTONE, Theological Observations, “L’Osservatore Romano,” English Edition, Jan 29, 1997, p. 6, col. 3.
 PONTIFICAL COUNCIL FOR THE FAMILY, Vademecum for Confessors Concerning Some Aspects of the Morality of Conjugal Life, 1997, 2, no. 4.
In September 1968 issue of the America magazine, Cardinal Avery Dulles, S.J. summarized the views of his fellow Jesuit, Karl Rahner S.J., published in Stimmen der Zeit, on the then recently published encyclical of Pope Paul VI, Humanae Vitae. The summary is long, but two points struck me:
In the first place, Rahner points out that Human Life cannot reasonably be considered irreformable doctrine. But this does not mean that it may be ignored. Since Catholics believe that the magisterium ordinarily operates under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, the presumption should be in favor of the Pope’s declaration. Any such presumption, however, must also allow of the possibility that a Catholic can arrive at a carefully formed and critically tested conviction that in a given case the fallible magisterium has in fact erred. Nobody today denies that there are cases in which official, reformable teaching of the Holy See has in fact been erroneous. As examples, Rahner cites the views of Gregory XVI and Pius IX on liberal democracy, and various statements about the Bible issued in the aftermath of the Modernist crisis. It cannot therefore be assumed that a Catholic who conscientiously opposes the non-infallible doctrine of the magisterium, as it stands at a given moment, is necessarily disloyal. (In this connection an American Catholic might think of the long struggle of John Courtney Murray to obtain revision of certain papal pronouncements on Church-State relations.)
In the present case, Rahner continues, the complexity of the issue is such that no one opposed to the encyclical can claim absolute certainty for his own stand. But it is normal and inevitable that some should be unable to accept the pope’s doctrine. The encyclical, although it claims to be an interpretation of the natural law, does not in fact give very persuasive intrinsic arguments. The encyclical seems to look on human nature as something static and closed–not open to modification by free and responsible human decision. But for some time many moral theologians have been teaching that what is distinctive to human nature, as distinct from plant and animal life, is precisely man’s power to modify his own nature according to the demands of a higher good. The pope, in fact, seems to allow for a measure of rational manipulation of human fertility in permitting the practice of rhythm and the use of the “pill” to regularize the menstrual cycle. Undoubtedly this differs somewhat from the use of the pill for directly contraceptive purposes, but in some instances the distinction is so subtle that many will regard it as hair-splitting. Since a notable majority of the Papal Commission is known to have come out against the position later taken in the encyclical, one can hardly expect the majority of Catholics to find the reasoning of Human Life convincing.
Rahner’s arguments are echoed weeks ago when 69 (ominous number) professors of Ateneo de Manila University signed a petition in support of the Reproductive Health Bill, in defiance to the Catholic Bishops of the Philippines who insist on fidelity to Humanae Vitae:
As Catholic educators, Racelis said it was incumbent upon them to teach their students that the RH bill was not “immoral” as the Church claims.
“We respect the consciences of our bishops when they promote natural family planning as the only moral means of contraception. In turn, we ask our bishops to respect the one in three [35.6 percent] married Filipino women who, in their most secret core and sanctuary or conscience, have decided that their and their family’s interests would best be served by using a modern artificial means of contraception,” they said. (Manila Standard Today, 29 Oct 2008)
See the similarities? After 40 years, the seeds of dissent Rahner sowed in 1968 reaped 69-fold . That is,
- Papal encyclicals are fallible documents.
- Catholics can disobey them without being disloyal.
Infallibility is defined in the Catholic Encyclopedia as follows:
- Infallibility means more than exemption from actual error; it means exemption from the possibility of error;
- It does not require holiness of life, much less imply impeccability in its organs; sinful and wicked men may be God’s agents in defining infallibly;
- The validity of the Divine guarantee is independent of the fallible arguments upon which a definitive decision may be based, and of the possibly unworthy human motives that in cases of strife may appear to have influenced the result. It is the definitive result itself, and it alone, that is guaranteed to be infallible, not the preliminary stages by which it is reached.
Furthermore, the Catholic Encyclopedia continued, in Session IV, cap. 4 of Vatican Council I, it is defined that the Roman pontiff when he teaches ex cathedra “enjoys, by reason of the Divine assistance promised to him in blessed Peter, that infallibility with which the Divine Redeemer wished His Church to be endowed in defining doctrine regarding faith and morals”.
Was Pope Paul VI making a definitive statement as Vicar of Christ when he declares the evil nature of contraception? Let us listen to Pope Paul VI’s words in Humanae Vitae:
The Magisterium’s Reply
6. However, the conclusions arrived at by the commission could not be considered by Us as definitive and absolutely certain, dispensing Us from the duty of examining personally this serious question. This was all the more necessary because, within the commission itself, there was not complete agreement concerning the moral norms to be proposed, and especially because certain approaches and criteria for a solution to this question had emerged which were at variance with the moral doctrine on marriage constantly taught by the magisterium of the Church.
Consequently, now that We have sifted carefully the evidence sent to Us and intently studied the whole matter, as well as prayed constantly to God, We, by virtue of the mandate entrusted to Us by Christ, intend to give Our reply to this series of grave questions.
So as Aragorn said in the Last Debate before the assault on the Black Gates of Mordor:
We come now to the very brink, where hope and despair are akin. To waver is to fall. Let none now reject the counsels of Gandalf, whose long labors against Sauron come at last to their test.
Let us heed then the counsel of Pope Paul VI and reject the melodious music of Rahner the Wise. Let us reject contraception. Let us reject the Reproductive Health Bill.
If it is the Pill they clamor for, then a Pill must be given–the Pill that brought many souls back to the Catholic Faith, the Pill that sent the Roman Emperor Theodosius begging for pardon before the doors of the Church of Milan under St. Ambrose: Anathema Sit. If they do not wish to listen to the Church, then they must be excluded from the Church, and sent outside in the darkness where they will wail and gnash their teeth until they repent and pay the last penny.
OF THE SUPREME PONTIFF
TO HIS VENERABLE BROTHERS
THE PATRIARCHS, ARCHBISHOPS, BISHOPS
AND OTHER LOCAL ORDINARIES
IN PEACE AND COMMUNION WITH THE APOSTOLIC SEE,
TO THE CLERGY AND FAITHFUL OF THE WHOLE CATHOLIC WORLD, AND TO ALL MEN OF GOOD WILL,
ON THE REGULATION OF BIRTH
Honored Brothers and Dear Sons,
Health and Apostolic Benediction.
The transmission of human life is a most serious role in which married people collaborate freely and responsibly with God the Creator. It has always been a source of great joy to them, even though it sometimes entails many difficulties and hardships.
The fulfillment of this duty has always posed problems to the conscience of married people, but the recent course of human society and the concomitant changes have provoked new questions. The Church cannot ignore these questions, for they concern matters intimately connected with the life and happiness of human beings.
I. PROBLEM AND COMPETENCY OF THE MAGISTERIUM
2. The changes that have taken place are of considerable importance and varied in nature. In the first place there is the rapid increase in population which has made many fear that world population is going to grow faster than available resources, with the consequence that many families and developing countries would be faced with greater hardships. This can easily induce public authorities to be tempted to take even harsher measures to avert this danger. There is also the fact that not only working and housing conditions but the greater demands made both in the economic and educational field pose a living situation in which it is frequently difficult these days to provide properly for a large family.
Also noteworthy is a new understanding of the dignity of woman and her place in society, of the value of conjugal love in marriage and the relationship of conjugal acts to this love.
But the most remarkable development of all is to be seen in man’s stupendous progress in the domination and rational organization of the forces of nature to the point that he is endeavoring to extend this control over every aspect of his own life—over his body, over his mind and emotions, over his social life, and even over the laws that regulate the transmission of life.
3. This new state of things gives rise to new questions. Granted the conditions of life today and taking into account the relevance of married love to the harmony and mutual fidelity of husband and wife, would it not be right to review the moral norms in force till now, especially when it is felt that these can be observed only with the gravest difficulty, sometimes only by heroic effort?
Moreover, if one were to apply here the so called principle of totality, could it not be accepted that the intention to have a less prolific but more rationally planned family might transform an action which renders natural processes infertile into a licit and provident control of birth? Could it not be admitted, in other words, that procreative finality applies to the totality of married life rather than to each single act? A further question is whether, because people are more conscious today of their responsibilities, the time has not come when the transmission of life should be regulated by their intelligence and will rather than through the specific rhythms of their own bodies.
Interpreting the Moral Law
4. This kind of question requires from the teaching authority of the Church a new and deeper reflection on the principles of the moral teaching on marriage—a teaching which is based on the natural law as illuminated and enriched by divine Revelation.
No member of the faithful could possibly deny that the Church is competent in her magisterium to interpret the natural moral law. It is in fact indisputable, as Our predecessors have many times declared, (l) that Jesus Christ, when He communicated His divine power to Peter and the other Apostles and sent them to teach all nations His commandments, (2) constituted them as the authentic guardians and interpreters of the whole moral law, not only, that is, of the law of the Gospel but also of the natural law. For the natural law, too, declares the will of God, and its faithful observance is necessary for men’s eternal salvation. (3)
In carrying out this mandate, the Church has always issued appropriate documents on the nature of marriage, the correct use of conjugal rights, and the duties of spouses. These documents have been more copious in recent times. (4)
5. The consciousness of the same responsibility induced Us to confirm and expand the commission set up by Our predecessor Pope John XXIII, of happy memory, in March, 1963. This commission included married couples as well as many experts in the various fields pertinent to these questions. Its task was to examine views and opinions concerning married life, and especially on the correct regulation of births; and it was also to provide the teaching authority of the Church with such evidence as would enable it to give an apt reply in this matter, which not only the faithful but also the rest of the world were waiting for. (5)
When the evidence of the experts had been received, as well as the opinions and advice of a considerable number of Our brethren in the episcopate—some of whom sent their views spontaneously, while others were requested by Us to do so—We were in a position to weigh with more precision all the aspects of this complex subject. Hence We are deeply grateful to all those concerned.
The Magisterium’s Reply
6. However, the conclusions arrived at by the commission could not be considered by Us as definitive and absolutely certain, dispensing Us from the duty of examining personally this serious question. This was all the more necessary because, within the commission itself, there was not complete agreement concerning the moral norms to be proposed, and especially because certain approaches and criteria for a solution to this question had emerged which were at variance with the moral doctrine on marriage constantly taught by the magisterium of the Church.
Consequently, now that We have sifted carefully the evidence sent to Us and intently studied the whole matter, as well as prayed constantly to God, We, by virtue of the mandate entrusted to Us by Christ, intend to give Our reply to this series of grave questions.
II. DOCTRINAL PRINCIPLES
7. The question of human procreation, like every other question which touches human life, involves more than the limited aspects specific to such disciplines as biology, psychology, demography or sociology. It is the whole man and the whole mission to which he is called that must be considered: both its natural, earthly aspects and its supernatural, eternal aspects. And since in the attempt to justify artificial methods of birth control many appeal to the demands of married love or of responsible parenthood, these two important realities of married life must be accurately defined and analyzed. This is what We mean to do, with special reference to what the Second Vatican Council taught with the highest authority in its Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the World of Today.
God’s Loving Design
8. Married love particularly reveals its true nature and nobility when we realize that it takes its origin from God, who “is love,” (6) the Father “from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named.” (7)
Marriage, then, is far from being the effect of chance or the result of the blind evolution of natural forces. It is in reality the wise and provident institution of God the Creator, whose purpose was to effect in man His loving design. As a consequence, husband and wife, through that mutual gift of themselves, which is specific and exclusive to them alone, develop that union of two persons in which they perfect one another, cooperating with God in the generation and rearing of new lives.
The marriage of those who have been baptized is, in addition, invested with the dignity of a sacramental sign of grace, for it represents the union of Christ and His Church.
9. In the light of these facts the characteristic features and exigencies of married love are clearly indicated, and it is of the highest importance to evaluate them exactly.
This love is above all fully human, a compound of sense and spirit. It is not, then, merely a question of natural instinct or emotional drive. It is also, and above all, an act of the free will, whose trust is such that it is meant not only to survive the joys and sorrows of daily life, but also to grow, so that husband and wife become in a way one heart and one soul, and together attain their human fulfillment.
It is a love which is total—that very special form of personal friendship in which husband and wife generously share everything, allowing no unreasonable exceptions and not thinking solely of their own convenience. Whoever really loves his partner loves not only for what he receives, but loves that partner for the partner’s own sake, content to be able to enrich the other with the gift of himself.
Married love is also faithful and exclusive of all other, and this until death. This is how husband and wife understood it on the day on which, fully aware of what they were doing, they freely vowed themselves to one another in marriage. Though this fidelity of husband and wife sometimes presents difficulties, no one has the right to assert that it is impossible; it is, on the contrary, always honorable and meritorious. The example of countless married couples proves not only that fidelity is in accord with the nature of marriage, but also that it is the source of profound and enduring happiness.
Finally, this love is fecund. It is not confined wholly to the loving interchange of husband and wife; it also contrives to go beyond this to bring new life into being. “Marriage and conjugal love are by their nature ordained toward the procreation and education of children. Children are really the supreme gift of marriage and contribute in the highest degree to their parents’ welfare.” (8)
10. Married love, therefore, requires of husband and wife the full awareness of their obligations in the matter of responsible parenthood, which today, rightly enough, is much insisted upon, but which at the same time should be rightly understood. Thus, we do well to consider responsible parenthood in the light of its varied legitimate and interrelated aspects.
With regard to the biological processes, responsible parenthood means an awareness of, and respect for, their proper functions. In the procreative faculty the human mind discerns biological laws that apply to the human person. (9)
With regard to man’s innate drives and emotions, responsible parenthood means that man’s reason and will must exert control over them.
With regard to physical, economic, psychological and social conditions, responsible parenthood is exercised by those who prudently and generously decide to have more children, and by those who, for serious reasons and with due respect to moral precepts, decide not to have additional children for either a certain or an indefinite period of time.
Responsible parenthood, as we use the term here, has one further essential aspect of paramount importance. It concerns the objective moral order which was established by God, and of which a right conscience is the true interpreter. In a word, the exercise of responsible parenthood requires that husband and wife, keeping a right order of priorities, recognize their own duties toward God, themselves, their families and human society.
From this it follows that they are not free to act as they choose in the service of transmitting life, as if it were wholly up to them to decide what is the right course to follow. On the contrary, they are bound to ensure that what they do corresponds to the will of God the Creator. The very nature of marriage and its use makes His will clear, while the constant teaching of the Church spells it out. (10)
Observing the Natural Law
11. The sexual activity, in which husband and wife are intimately and chastely united with one another, through which human life is transmitted, is, as the recent Council recalled, “noble and worthy.” (11) It does not, moreover, cease to be legitimate even when, for reasons independent of their will, it is foreseen to be infertile. For its natural adaptation to the expression and strengthening of the union of husband and wife is not thereby suppressed. The fact is, as experience shows, that new life is not the result of each and every act of sexual intercourse. God has wisely ordered laws of nature and the incidence of fertility in such a way that successive births are already naturally spaced through the inherent operation of these laws. The Church, nevertheless, in urging men to the observance of the precepts of the natural law, which it interprets by its constant doctrine, teaches that each and every marital act must of necessity retain its intrinsic relationship to the procreation of human life. (12)
Union and Procreation
12. This particular doctrine, often expounded by the magisterium of the Church, is based on the inseparable connection, established by God, which man on his own initiative may not break, between the unitive significance and the procreative significance which are both inherent to the marriage act.
The reason is that the fundamental nature of the marriage act, while uniting husband and wife in the closest intimacy, also renders them capable of generating new life—and this as a result of laws written into the actual nature of man and of woman. And if each of these essential qualities, the unitive and the procreative, is preserved, the use of marriage fully retains its sense of true mutual love and its ordination to the supreme responsibility of parenthood to which man is called. We believe that our contemporaries are particularly capable of seeing that this teaching is in harmony with human reason.
Faithfulness to God’s Design
13. Men rightly observe that a conjugal act imposed on one’s partner without regard to his or her condition or personal and reasonable wishes in the matter, is no true act of love, and therefore offends the moral order in its particular application to the intimate relationship of husband and wife. If they further reflect, they must also recognize that an act of mutual love which impairs the capacity to transmit life which God the Creator, through specific laws, has built into it, frustrates His design which constitutes the norm of marriage, and contradicts the will of the Author of life. Hence to use this divine gift while depriving it, even if only partially, of its meaning and purpose, is equally repugnant to the nature of man and of woman, and is consequently in opposition to the plan of God and His holy will. But to experience the gift of married love while respecting the laws of conception is to acknowledge that one is not the master of the sources of life but rather the minister of the design established by the Creator. Just as man does not have unlimited dominion over his body in general, so also, and with more particular reason, he has no such dominion over his specifically sexual faculties, for these are concerned by their very nature with the generation of life, of which God is the source. “Human life is sacred—all men must recognize that fact,” Our predecessor Pope John XXIII recalled. “From its very inception it reveals the creating hand of God.” (13)
Unlawful Birth Control Methods
14. Therefore We base Our words on the first principles of a human and Christian doctrine of marriage when We are obliged once more to declare that the direct interruption of the generative process already begun and, above all, all direct abortion, even for therapeutic reasons, are to be absolutely excluded as lawful means of regulating the number of children. (14) Equally to be condemned, as the magisterium of the Church has affirmed on many occasions, is direct sterilization, whether of the man or of the woman, whether permanent or temporary. (15)
Similarly excluded is any action which either before, at the moment of, or after sexual intercourse, is specifically intended to prevent procreation—whether as an end or as a means. (16)
Neither is it valid to argue, as a justification for sexual intercourse which is deliberately contraceptive, that a lesser evil is to be preferred to a greater one, or that such intercourse would merge with procreative acts of past and future to form a single entity, and so be qualified by exactly the same moral goodness as these. Though it is true that sometimes it is lawful to tolerate a lesser moral evil in order to avoid a greater evil or in order to promote a greater good,” it is never lawful, even for the gravest reasons, to do evil that good may come of it (18)—in other words, to intend directly something which of its very nature contradicts the moral order, and which must therefore be judged unworthy of man, even though the intention is to protect or promote the welfare of an individual, of a family or of society in general. Consequently, it is a serious error to think that a whole married life of otherwise normal relations can justify sexual intercourse which is deliberately contraceptive and so intrinsically wrong.
Lawful Therapeutic Means
15. On the other hand, the Church does not consider at all illicit the use of those therapeutic means necessary to cure bodily diseases, even if a foreseeable impediment to procreation should result there from—provided such impediment is not directly intended for any motive whatsoever. (19)
Recourse to Infertile Periods
16. Now as We noted earlier (no. 3), some people today raise the objection against this particular doctrine of the Church concerning the moral laws governing marriage, that human intelligence has both the right and responsibility to control those forces of irrational nature which come within its ambit and to direct them toward ends beneficial to man. Others ask on the same point whether it is not reasonable in so many cases to use artificial birth control if by so doing the harmony and peace of a family are better served and more suitable conditions are provided for the education of children already born. To this question We must give a clear reply. The Church is the first to praise and commend the application of human intelligence to an activity in which a rational creature such as man is so closely associated with his Creator. But she affirms that this must be done within the limits of the order of reality established by God.
If therefore there are well-grounded reasons for spacing births, arising from the physical or psychological condition of husband or wife, or from external circumstances, the Church teaches that married people may then take advantage of the natural cycles immanent in the reproductive system and engage in marital intercourse only during those times that are infertile, thus controlling birth in a way which does not in the least offend the moral principles which We have just explained. (20)
Neither the Church nor her doctrine is inconsistent when she considers it lawful for married people to take advantage of the infertile period but condemns as always unlawful the use of means which directly prevent conception, even when the reasons given for the later practice may appear to be upright and serious. In reality, these two cases are completely different. In the former the married couple rightly use a faculty provided them by nature. In the later they obstruct the natural development of the generative process. It cannot be denied that in each case the married couple, for acceptable reasons, are both perfectly clear in their intention to avoid children and wish to make sure that none will result. But it is equally true that it is exclusively in the former case that husband and wife are ready to abstain from intercourse during the fertile period as often as for reasonable motives the birth of another child is not desirable. And when the infertile period recurs, they use their married intimacy to express their mutual love and safeguard their fidelity toward one another. In doing this they certainly give proof of a true and authentic love.
Consequences of Artificial Methods
17. Responsible men can become more deeply convinced of the truth of the doctrine laid down by the Church on this issue if they reflect on the consequences of methods and plans for artificial birth control. Let them first consider how easily this course of action could open wide the way for marital infidelity and a general lowering of moral standards. Not much experience is needed to be fully aware of human weakness and to understand that human beings—and especially the young, who are so exposed to temptation—need incentives to keep the moral law, and it is an evil thing to make it easy for them to break that law. Another effect that gives cause for alarm is that a man who grows accustomed to the use of contraceptive methods may forget the reverence due to a woman, and, disregarding her physical and emotional equilibrium, reduce her to being a mere instrument for the satisfaction of his own desires, no longer considering her as his partner whom he should surround with care and affection.
Finally, careful consideration should be given to the danger of this power passing into the hands of those public authorities who care little for the precepts of the moral law. Who will blame a government which in its attempt to resolve the problems affecting an entire country resorts to the same measures as are regarded as lawful by married people in the solution of a particular family difficulty? Who will prevent public authorities from favoring those contraceptive methods which they consider more effective? Should they regard this as necessary, they may even impose their use on everyone. It could well happen, therefore, that when people, either individually or in family or social life, experience the inherent difficulties of the divine law and are determined to avoid them, they may give into the hands of public authorities the power to intervene in the most personal and intimate responsibility of husband and wife.
Limits to Man’s Power
Consequently, unless we are willing that the responsibility of procreating life should be left to the arbitrary decision of men, we must accept that there are certain limits, beyond which it is wrong to go, to the power of man over his own body and its natural functions—limits, let it be said, which no one, whether as a private individual or as a public authority, can lawfully exceed. These limits are expressly imposed because of the reverence due to the whole human organism and its natural functions, in the light of the principles We stated earlier, and in accordance with a correct understanding of the “principle of totality” enunciated by Our predecessor Pope Pius XII. (21)
Concern of the Church
18. It is to be anticipated that perhaps not everyone will easily accept this particular teaching. There is too much clamorous outcry against the voice of the Church, and this is intensified by modern means of communication. But it comes as no surprise to the Church that she, no less than her divine Founder, is destined to be a “sign of contradiction.” (22) She does not, because of this, evade the duty imposed on her of proclaiming humbly but firmly the entire moral law, both natural and evangelical.
Since the Church did not make either of these laws, she cannot be their arbiter—only their guardian and interpreter. It could never be right for her to declare lawful what is in fact unlawful, since that, by its very nature, is always opposed to the true good of man.
In preserving intact the whole moral law of marriage, the Church is convinced that she is contributing to the creation of a truly human civilization. She urges man not to betray his personal responsibilities by putting all his faith in technical expedients. In this way she defends the dignity of husband and wife. This course of action shows that the Church, loyal to the example and teaching of the divine Savior, is sincere and unselfish in her regard for men whom she strives to help even now during this earthly pilgrimage “to share God’s life as sons of the living God, the Father of all men.” (23)
III. PASTORAL DIRECTIVES
19. Our words would not be an adequate expression of the thought and solicitude of the Church, Mother and Teacher of all peoples, if, after having recalled men to the observance and respect of the divine law regarding matrimony, they did not also support mankind in the honest regulation of birth amid the difficult conditions which today afflict families and peoples. The Church, in fact, cannot act differently toward men than did the Redeemer. She knows their weaknesses, she has compassion on the multitude, she welcomes sinners. But at the same time she cannot do otherwise than teach the law. For it is in fact the law of human life restored to its native truth and guided by the Spirit of God. (24) Observing the Divine Law.
20. The teaching of the Church regarding the proper regulation of birth is a promulgation of the law of God Himself. And yet there is no doubt that to many it will appear not merely difficult but even impossible to observe. Now it is true that like all good things which are outstanding for their nobility and for the benefits which they confer on men, so this law demands from individual men and women, from families and from human society, a resolute purpose and great endurance. Indeed it cannot be observed unless God comes to their help with the grace by which the goodwill of men is sustained and strengthened. But to those who consider this matter diligently it will indeed be evident that this endurance enhances man’s dignity and confers benefits on human society.
Value of Self-Discipline
21. The right and lawful ordering of birth demands, first of all, that spouses fully recognize and value the true blessings of family life and that they acquire complete mastery over themselves and their emotions. For if with the aid of reason and of free will they are to control their natural drives, there can be no doubt at all of the need for self-denial. Only then will the expression of love, essential to married life, conform to right order. This is especially clear in the practice of periodic continence. Self-discipline of this kind is a shining witness to the chastity of husband and wife and, far from being a hindrance to their love of one another, transforms it by giving it a more truly human character. And if this self-discipline does demand that they persevere in their purpose and efforts, it has at the same time the salutary effect of enabling husband and wife to develop to their personalities and to be enriched with spiritual blessings. For it brings to family life abundant fruits of tranquility and peace. It helps in solving difficulties of other kinds. It fosters in husband and wife thoughtfulness and loving consideration for one another. It helps them to repel inordinate self-love, which is the opposite of charity. It arouses in them a consciousness of their responsibilities. And finally, it confers upon parents a deeper and more effective influence in the education of their children. As their children grow up, they develop a right sense of values and achieve a serene and harmonious use of their mental and physical powers.
Promotion of Chastity
22. We take this opportunity to address those who are engaged in education and all those whose right and duty it is to provide for the common good of human society. We would call their attention to the need to create an atmosphere favorable to the growth of chastity so that true liberty may prevail over license and the norms of the moral law may be fully safeguarded.
Everything therefore in the modern means of social communication which arouses men’s baser passions and encourages low moral standards, as well as every obscenity in the written word and every form of indecency on the stage and screen, should be condemned publicly and unanimously by all those who have at heart the advance of civilization and the safeguarding of the outstanding values of the human spirit. It is quite absurd to defend this kind of depravity in the name of art or culture (25) or by pleading the liberty which may be allowed in this field by the public authorities.
Appeal to Public Authorities
23. And now We wish to speak to rulers of nations. To you most of all is committed the responsibility of safeguarding the common good. You can contribute so much to the preservation of morals. We beg of you, never allow the morals of your peoples to be undermined. The family is the primary unit in the state; do not tolerate any legislation which would introduce into the family those practices which are opposed to the natural law of God. For there are other ways by which a government can and should solve the population problem—that is to say by enacting laws which will assist families and by educating the people wisely so that the moral law and the freedom of the citizens are both safeguarded.
Seeking True Solutions
We are fully aware of the difficulties confronting the public authorities in this matter, especially in the developing countries. In fact, We had in mind the justifiable anxieties which weigh upon them when We published Our encyclical letter Populorum Progressio. But now We join Our voice to that of Our predecessor John XXIII of venerable memory, and We make Our own his words: “No statement of the problem and no solution to it is acceptable which does violence to man’s essential dignity; those who propose such solutions base them on an utterly materialistic conception of man himself and his life. The only possible solution to this question is one which envisages the social and economic progress both of individuals and of the whole of human society, and which respects and promotes true human values.” (26) No one can, without being grossly unfair, make divine Providence responsible for what clearly seems to be the result of misguided governmental policies, of an insufficient sense of social justice, of a selfish accumulation of material goods, and finally of a culpable failure to undertake those initiatives and responsibilities which would raise the standard of living of peoples and their children. (27) If only all governments which were able would do what some are already doing so nobly, and bestir themselves to renew their efforts and their undertakings! There must be no relaxation in the programs of mutual aid between all the branches of the great human family. Here We believe an almost limitless field lies open for the activities of the great international institutions.
24. Our next appeal is to men of science. These can “considerably advance the welfare of marriage and the family and also peace of conscience, if by pooling their efforts they strive to elucidate more thoroughly the conditions favorable to a proper regulation of births.” (28) It is supremely desirable, and this was also the mind of Pius XII, that medical science should by the study of natural rhythms succeed in determining a sufficiently secure basis for the chaste limitation of offspring. (29) In this way scientists, especially those who are Catholics, will by their research establish the truth of the Church’s claim that “there can be no contradiction between two divine laws—that which governs the transmitting of life and that which governs the fostering of married love.” (30)
To Christian Couples
25. And now We turn in a special way to Our own sons and daughters, to those most of all whom God calls to serve Him in the state of marriage. While the Church does indeed hand on to her children the inviolable conditions laid down by God’s law, she is also the herald of salvation and through the sacraments she flings wide open the channels of grace through which man is made a new creature responding in charity and true freedom to the design of his Creator and Savior, experiencing too the sweetness of the yoke of Christ. (31)
In humble obedience then to her voice, let Christian husbands and wives be mindful of their vocation to the Christian life, a vocation which, deriving from their Baptism, has been confirmed anew and made more explicit by the Sacrament of Matrimony. For by this sacrament they are strengthened and, one might almost say, consecrated to the faithful fulfillment of their duties. Thus will they realize to the full their calling and bear witness as becomes them, to Christ before the world. (32) For the Lord has entrusted to them the task of making visible to men and women the holiness and joy of the law which united inseparably their love for one another and the cooperation they give to God’s love, God who is the Author of human life.
We have no wish at all to pass over in silence the difficulties, at times very great, which beset the lives of Christian married couples. For them, as indeed for every one of us, “the gate is narrow and the way is hard, that leads to life.” (33) Nevertheless it is precisely the hope of that life which, like a brightly burning torch, lights up their journey, as, strong in spirit, they strive to live “sober, upright and godly lives in this world,” (34) knowing for sure that “the form of this world is passing away.” (35)
Recourse to God
For this reason husbands and wives should take up the burden appointed to them, willingly, in the strength of faith and of that hope which “does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us ~}36 Then let them implore the help of God with unremitting prayer and, most of all, let them draw grace and charity from that unfailing fount which is the Eucharist. If, however, sin still exercises its hold over them, they are not to lose heart. Rather must they, humble and persevering, have recourse to the mercy of God, abundantly bestowed in the Sacrament of Penance. In this way, for sure, they will be able to reach that perfection of married life which the Apostle sets out in these words: “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the Church. . . Even so husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no man ever hates his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, as Christ does the Church. . . This is a great mystery, and I mean in reference to Christ and the Church; however, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.” (37)
26. Among the fruits that ripen if the law of God be resolutely obeyed, the most precious is certainly this, that married couples themselves will often desire to communicate their own experience to others. Thus it comes about that in the fullness of the lay vocation will be included a novel and outstanding form of the apostolate by which, like ministering to like, married couples themselves by the leadership they offer will become apostles to other married couples. And surely among all the forms of the Christian apostolate it is hard to think of one more opportune for the present time. (38)
To Doctors and Nurses
27. Likewise we hold in the highest esteem those doctors and members of the nursing profession who, in the exercise of their calling, endeavor to fulfill the demands of their Christian vocation before any merely human interest. Let them therefore continue constant in their resolution always to support those lines of action which accord with faith and with right reason. And let them strive to win agreement and support for these policies among their professional colleagues. Moreover, they should regard it as an essential part of their skill to make themselves fully proficient in this difficult field of medical knowledge. For then, when married couples ask for their advice, they may be in a position to give them right counsel and to point them in the proper direction. Married couples have a right to expect this much from them.
28. And now, beloved sons, you who are priests, you who in virtue of your sacred office act as counselors and spiritual leaders both of individual men and women and of families—We turn to you filled with great confidence. For it is your principal duty—We are speaking especially to you who teach moral theology—to spell out clearly and completely the Church’s teaching on marriage. In the performance of your ministry you must be the first to give an example of that sincere obedience, inward as well as outward, which is due to the magisterium of the Church. For, as you know, the pastors of the Church enjoy a special light of the Holy Spirit in teaching the truth. (39) And this, rather than the arguments they put forward, is why you are bound to such obedience. Nor will it escape you that if men’s peace of soul and the unity of the Christian people are to be preserved, then it is of the utmost importance that in moral as well as in dogmatic theology all should obey the magisterium of the Church and should speak as with one voice. Therefore We make Our own the anxious words of the great Apostle Paul and with all Our heart We renew Our appeal to you: “I appeal to you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree and that there be no dissensions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment.” (40)
29. Now it is an outstanding manifestation of charity toward souls to omit nothing from the saving doctrine of Christ; but this must always be joined with tolerance and charity, as Christ Himself showed in His conversations and dealings with men. For when He came, not to judge, but to save the world, (41) was He not bitterly severe toward sin, but patient and abounding in mercy toward sinners?
Husbands and wives, therefore, when deeply distressed by reason of the difficulties of their life, must find stamped in the heart and voice of their priest the likeness of the voice and the love of our Redeemer.
So speak with full confidence, beloved sons, convinced that while the Holy Spirit of God is present to the magisterium proclaiming sound doctrine, He also illumines from within the hearts of the faithful and invites their assent. Teach married couples the necessary way of prayer and prepare them to approach more often with great faith the Sacraments of the Eucharist and of Penance. Let them never lose heart because of their weakness.
30. And now as We come to the end of this encyclical letter, We turn Our mind to you, reverently and lovingly, beloved and venerable brothers in the episcopate, with whom We share more closely the care of the spiritual good of the People of God. For We invite all of you, We implore you, to give a lead to your priests who assist you in the sacred ministry, and to the faithful of your dioceses, and to devote yourselves with all zeal and without delay to safeguarding the holiness of marriage, in order to guide married life to its full human and Christian perfection. Consider this mission as one of your most urgent responsibilities at the present time. As you well know, it calls for concerted pastoral action in every field of human diligence, economic, cultural and social. If simultaneous progress is made in these various fields, then the intimate life of parents and children in the family will be rendered not only more tolerable, but easier and more joyful. And life together in human society will be enriched with fraternal charity and made more stable with true peace when God’s design which He conceived for the world is faithfully followed.
A Great Work
31. Venerable brothers, beloved sons, all men of good will, great indeed is the work of education, of progress and of charity to which We now summon all of you. And this We do relying on the unshakable teaching of the Church, which teaching Peter’s successor together with his brothers in the Catholic episcopate faithfully guards and interprets. And We are convinced that this truly great work will bring blessings both on the world and on the Church. For man cannot attain that true happiness for which he yearns with all the strength of his spirit, unless he keeps the laws which the Most High God has engraved in his very nature. These laws must be wisely and lovingly observed. On this great work, on all of you and especially on married couples, We implore from the God of all holiness and pity an abundance of heavenly grace as a pledge of which We gladly bestow Our apostolic blessing.
Given at St. Peter’s, Rome, on the 25th day of July, the feast of St. James the Apostle, in the year 1968, the sixth of Our pontificate.
LATIN TEXT: Acta Apostolicae Sedis, 60 (1968), 481-503.
ENGLISH TRANSLATION: The Pope Speaks, 13 (Fall. 1969), 329-46.
(1) See Pius IX, encyc. letter Oui pluribus: Pii IX P.M. Acta, 1, pp. 9-10; St. Pius X encyc. letter Singulari quadam: AAS 4 (1912), 658; Pius XI, encyc.letter Casti connubii: AAS 22 (1930), 579-581; Pius XII, address Magnificate Dominum to the episcopate of the Catholic World: AAS 46 (1954), 671-672; John XXIII, encyc. letter Mater et Magistra: AAS 53 (1961), 457.
(2) See Mt 28. 18-19.
(3) See Mt 7. 21.
(4) See Council of Trent Roman Catechism, Part II, ch. 8; Leo XIII, encyc.letter Arcanum: Acta Leonis XIII, 2 (1880), 26-29; Pius XI, encyc.letter Divini illius Magistri: AAS 22 (1930), 58-61; encyc. letter Casti connubii: AAS 22 (1930), 545-546; Pius XII, Address to Italian Medico-Biological Union of St. Luke: Discorsi e radiomessaggi di Pio XII, VI, 191-192; to Italian Association of Catholic Midwives: AAS 43 (1951), 835-854; to the association known as the Family Campaign, and other family associations: AAS 43 (1951), 857-859; to 7th congress of International Society of Hematology: AAS 50 (1958), 734-735 [TPS VI, 394-395]; John XXIII, encyc.letter Mater et Magistra: AAS 53 (1961), 446-447 [TPS VII, 330-331]; Second Vatican Council, Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the World of Today, nos. 47-52: AAS 58 (1966), 1067-1074 [TPS XI, 289-295]; Code of Canon Law, canons 1067, 1068 §1, canon 1076, §§1-2.
(5) See Paul VI, Address to Sacred College of Cardinals: AAS 56 (1964), 588 [TPS IX, 355-356]; to Commission for the Study of Problems of Population, Family and Birth: AAS 57 (1965), 388 [TPS X, 225]; to National Congress of the Italian Society of Obstetrics and Gynecology: AAS 58 (1966), 1168 [TPS XI, 401-403].
(6) See 1 Jn 4. 8.
(7) Eph 3. 15.
(8) Second Vatican Council, Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the World of Today, no. 50: AAS 58 (1966), 1070-1072 [TPS XI, 292-293].
(9) See St. Thomas, Summa Theologiae, I-II, q. 94, art. 2.
(10) See Second Vatican Council, Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the World of Today, nos . 50- 5 1: AAS 58 ( 1 966) 1070-1073 [TPS XI, 292-293].
(11) See ibid., no. 49: AAS 58 (1966), 1070 [TPS XI, 291-292].
(12) See Pius XI. encyc. letter Casti connubi: AAS 22 (1930), 560; Pius XII, Address to Midwives: AAS 43 (1951), 843.
(13) See encyc. letter Mater et Magistra: AAS 53 (1961), 447 [TPS VII, 331].
(14) See Council of Trent Roman Catechism, Part II, ch. 8; Pius XI, encyc. letter Casti connubii: AAS 22 (1930), 562-564; Pius XII, Address to Medico-Biological Union of St. Luke: Discorsi e radiomessaggi, VI, 191-192; Address to Midwives: AAS 43 (1951), 842-843; Address to Family Campaign and other family associations: AAS 43 (1951), 857-859; John XXIII, encyc. letter Pacem in terris: AAS 55 (1963), 259-260 [TPS IX, 15-16]; Second Vatican Council, Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the World of Today, no. 51: AAS 58 (1966), 1072 [TPS XI, 293].
(15) See Pius XI, encyc. letter Casti connubii: AAS 22 (1930), 565; Decree of the Holy Office, Feb. 22, 1940: AAS 32 (1940), 73; Pius XII, Address to Midwives: AAS 43
(1951), 843-844; to the Society of Hematology: AAS 50 (1958), 734-735 [TPS VI, 394-395].
(16) See Council of Trent Roman Catechism, Part II, ch. 8; Pius XI, encyc. letter Casti connubii: AAS 22 (1930), 559-561; Pius XII, Address to Midwives: AAS 43 (1951), 843; to the Society of Hematology: AAS 50 (1958), 734-735 [TPS VI, 394-395]; John XXIII, encyc.letter Mater et Magistra: AAS 53 (1961), 447 [TPS VII, 331].
(17) See Pius XII, Address to National Congress of Italian Society of the Union of Catholic Jurists: AAS 45 (1953), 798-799 [TPS I, 67-69].
(18) See Rom 3. 8.
(19) See Pius XII, Address to 26th Congress of Italian Association of Urology: AAS 45 (1953), 674-675; to Society of Hematology: AAS 50 (1958), 734-735 [TPS VI, 394-395].
(20) See Pius XII, Address to Midwives: AAS 43 (1951), 846.
(21) See Pius XII, Address to Association of Urology: AAS 45 (1953), 674-675; to leaders and members of Italian Association of Cornea Donors and Italian Association for the Blind: AAS 48 (1956), 461-462 [TPS III, 200-201].
(22) Lk 2. 34.
(23) See Paul Vl, encyc. letter Populorum progressio: AAS 59 (1967), 268 [TPS XII, 151].
(24) See Rom 8.
(25) See Second Vatican Council, Decree on the Media of Social Communication, nos. 6-7: AAS 56 (1964), 147 [TPS IX, 340-341].
(26) Encyc. letter Mater et Magistra: AAS 53 (1961), 447 [TPS VII, 331].
(27) See encyc. letter Populorum progressio, nos. 48-55: AAS 59 (1967), 281-284 [TPS XII, 160-162].
(28) Second Vatican Council, Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the World of Today, no. 52: AAS 58 (1966), 1074 [TPS XI, 294].
(29) Address to Family Campaign and other family associations: AAS 43 (1951), 859.
(30) Second Vatican Council, Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the World of Today, no. 51: AAS 58 (1966), 1072 [TPS XI, 293].
(31) See Mt 11. 30.
(32) See Second Vatican Council, Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the World of Today, no. 48: AAS 58 (1966), 1067-1069 [TPS XI,290-291]; Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, no. 35: AAS 57 (1965), 40-41 [TPS X, 382-383].
(33) Mt 7. 14; see Heb 12. 11.
(34) See Ti 2. 12.
(35) See 1 Cor 7. 31.
(36) Rom 5. 5.
(37) Eph 5. 25, 28-29, 32-33.
(38) See Second Vatican Council, Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, nos. 35, 41: AAS 57 (1965), 40-45 [TPS X, 382-383, 386-387; Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the World of Today, nos. 48-49: AAS 58 (1966),1067-1070 [TPS XI, 290-292]; Decree on the Apostolate of the Laity, no. 11: AAS 58 (1966), 847-849 [TPS XI, 128-129].
(39) See Second Vatican Council, Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, no. 25: AAS 57 (1965), 29-31 [TPS X, 375-376].
(40) 1 Cor 1. 10.
(41) See Jn 3. 17.