On the nature of a Catholic University: Land o’ Lakes statement vs Ex Corde Ecclesiae

Don Bosco's Vision of the Two Pillars

Don Bosco’s Vision of the Two Pillars

Last 16 July 2013, the Philippine Supreme Court indefinitely placed the implementation of the Reproductive Health Law on hold until further notice.  The RH Law was supported by many faculty members and students in Ateneo de Manila University with the claim that it is possible to support the RH Law in good conscience.  This claim  was also supported by professors and students from De La Salle University.  The roots of this claim run deep and can be traced back to the Land o’ Lakes Statement of 1967 which was signed by several administrators of US Catholic Universities, headed by Fr. Theodore M. Hesburgh, C.S.C., who was also the president of University of Notre Dame.  The Land o’ Lakes spread like wildfire and eventually reached the Philippine shores.  In response to the wake of destruction of Catholic Universities caused by the Land o’ Lakes Statement, Pope John Paul II issued an encyclical Ex Corde Ecclesiae in 1990 to stem the tide and provide a pillar of support for for administrators of Catholic Universities who cannot anymore find their sense of direction in the sea of battle. (Note: In Don Bosco’s Vision of the Two Pillars, the weapons of the enemy ships against the Barque of Peter include “books and pamphlets.”)

What’s the connection of the Land o’ Lakes Statement to the RH Law?  In 1960 the pill was invented and dissenting theologians pressed the papacy to reconsider the ban on contraceptives.  In 1963, Pope John XXIII established the Pontifical Commission on Birth Control which proposed in its 1966 official report to Pope Paul VI that artificial contraceptives are not intrinsically evil and that Catholic couples may use them.  However, the Commission’s minority report led by the Jesuit John Ford argued as follows:

“If it should be declared that contraception is not evil in itself, then we should have to concede frankly that the Holy Spirit had been on the side of the Protestant churches in 1930 [when Casti Connubii was promulgated) and in 1951.

“It should likewise have to be admitted that for a half a century the Spirit failed to protect Pius XI, Pius XII, and a large part of the Catholic hierarchy from a very serious error. This would mean that the leaders of the Church, acting with extreme imprudence, had condemned thousands of innocent human acts, forbidding, under pain of eternal damnation, a practice which would now be sanctioned. The fact can neither be denied nor ignored that these same acts would now be declared licit on the grounds of principles cited by the Protestants, which Popes and Bishops have either condemned, or at least not approved.”[7]

(You may read Ford’s lengthy biography here which narrates in detail the actions of the Pontifical Commission on Birth Control.) These reports were leaked to the press in Spring of 1967.  Pope Paul VI, hearing of the possible press releases, made a preemptive announcement in Oct 29, 1966, saying:

It seems to me, cannot be considered definitive, because they have serious implications with respect to not a few weighty questions—questions of a doctrinal, pastoral and social order—which cannot be isolated and put to the side, but require a logical consideration in the context of the issues under study.

On July 23, 1967 the Land o’ Lakes Statement came out, proclaiming the autonomy of Catholic universities from the Church hierarchy, including the papacy.  Because of the proximity of the events, one can say that the Land o’ Lakes Statement is for the support of the use of the Pill as stated in the Majority report of the Pontifical Commission on Birth Control, but which is contrary to the mind of Pope Paul VI.  A year later, in July 25, 1968, Pope Paul VI published his encyclical, “Humanae Vitae” which described contraception as “intrinsically wrong” that cannot be justified in the normal relations in the whole of married life.  In December 2012, the President Noynoy Aquino ratified the RH Law promotes the use of contraceptives.  And now, the Philippine Supreme Court still has to decide on the law’s constitutionality.

In this article, what I propose to do is to present the controversial excerpts in Land o’ Lakes Statement in bold font and comment on them in normal font.  Specifically, I shall show how each statement contradicts with those of Ex Corde Ecclesiae and other Papal Encyclicals.

1.  Land o’ Lakes: “To perform its teaching and research functions effectively the Catholic university must have a true autonomy and academic freedom in the face of authority of whatever kind, lay or clerical, external to the academic community itself.”

With this statement, the Catholic University becomes independent of the Church hierarchy, particularly the bishops of the diocese where the university belongs.   This contradicts with Article 5 of Ex Corde Ecclesiae:

Every Catholic University is to maintain communion with the universal Church and the Holy See; it is to be in close communion with the local Church and in particular with the diocesan Bishops of the region or nation in which it is located. In ways consistent with its nature as a University, a Catholic University will contribute to the Church’s work of evangelization.

Each Bishop has a responsibility to promote the welfare of the Catholic Universities in his diocese and has the right and duty to watch over the preservation and strengthening of their Catholic character. If problems should arise conceming this Catholic character, the local Bishop is to take the initiatives necessary to resolve the matter, working with the competent university authorities in accordance with established procedures(52) and, if necessary, with the help of the Holy See.

2. Land o’ Lakes: “The theological faculty must engage directly in exploring the depths of Christian tradition and the total religious heritage of the world, in order to come to the best possible intellectual understanding of religion and revelation, of man in all his varied relationships to God. Particularly important today is the theological exploration of all human relations and the elaboration of a Christian anthropology. Furthermore, theological investigation today must serve the ecumenical goals of collaboration and unity.”

This statement makes Catholic theology just one of the many ways to interpret religion and revelation.  Furthermore, the statement makes ecumenical collaboration with non-Catholic and even non-Christian faith systems the goal of theological investigation, which goes against the primacy of the teaching of Catholic doctrine.  As stated in Article 4 of Ex Corde Ecclesiae:

All teachers and all administrators, at the time of their appointment, are to be informed about the Catholic identity of the Institution and its implications, and about their responsibility to promote, or at least to respect, that identity.

In ways appropriate to the different academic disciplines, all Catholic teachers are to be faithful to, and all other teachers are to respect, Catholic doctrine and morals in their research and teaching. In particular, Catholic theologians, aware that they fulfill a mandate received from the Church, are to be faithful to the Magisterium of the Church as the authentic interpreter of Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition(50).

Those university teachers and administrators who belong to other Churches, ecclesial communities, or religions, as well as those who profess no religious belief, and also all students, are to recognize and respect the distinctive Catholic identity of the University. In order not to endanger the Catholic identity of the University or Institute of Higher Studies, the number of non-Catholic teachers should not be allowed to constitute a majority within the Institution, which is and must remain Catholic.

Don Bosco's Vision of the Two Columns: The Attack of the Enemy Ships on the Barque of Peter

Don Bosco’s Vision of the Two Columns: The Attack of the Enemy Ships on the Barque of Peter

3.  Land o’ Lakes: “In a Catholic university all recognized university areas of study are frankly and fully accepted and their internal autonomy affirmed and guaranteed. There must be no theological or philosophical imperialism; all scientific and disciplinary methods, and methodologies, must be given due honor and respect. However, there will necessarily result from the interdisciplinary discussions an awareness that there is a philosophical and theological dimension to most intellectual subjects when they are pursued far enough. Hence, in a Catholic university there will be a special interest in interdisciplinary problems and relationships.”

This is similar to the previous point, but this time extended from Theological Disciplines to all areas of study of the university.  So we can use the same response as that in point 2.  We can also add a statement from Article 2 of Ex Corde Ecclesiae:

Catholic teaching and discipline are to influence all university activities, while the freedom of conscience of each person is to be fully respected(46). Any official action or commitment of the University is to be in accord with its Catholic identity.

The “theological and philosophical imperialism” alluded to in the Land o’ Lakes statement  may refer to Catholic theology and philosophy in general, and to St. Aquinas’s Summa Theologiae in particular.  As stated in Pope Leo XIII’s Aeterni Patris:

17. Among the Scholastic Doctors, the chief and master of all towers Thomas Aquinas, who, as Cajetan observes, because “he most venerated the ancient doctors of the Church, in a certain way seems to have inherited the intellect of all.”(34) The doctrines of those illustrious men, like the scattered members of a body, Thomas collected together and cemented, distributed in wonderful order, and so increased with important additions that he is rightly and deservedly esteemed the special bulwark and glory of the Catholic faith. With his spirit at once humble and swift, his memory ready and tenacious, his life spotless throughout, a lover of truth for its own sake, richly endowed with human and divine science, like the sun he heated the world with the warmth of his virtues and filled it with the splendor of his teaching. Philosophy has no part which he did not touch finely at once and thoroughly; on the laws of reasoning, on God and incorporeal substances, on man and other sensible things, on human actions and their principles, he reasoned in such a manner that in him there is wanting neither a full array of questions, nor an apt disposal of the various parts, nor the best method of proceeding, nor soundness of principles or strength of argument, nor clearness and elegance of style, nor a facility for explaining what is abstruse.

18. Moreover, the Angelic Doctor pushed his philosophic inquiry into the reasons and principles of things, which because they are most comprehensive and contain in their bosom, so to say, the seeds of almost infinite truths, were to be unfolded in good time by later masters and with a goodly yield. And as he also used this philosophic method in the refutation of error, he won this title to distinction for himself: that, single-handed, he victoriously combated the errors of former times, and supplied invincible arms to put those to rout which might in after-times spring up. Again, clearly distinguishing, as is fitting, reason from faith, while happily associating the one with the other, he both preserved the rights and had regard for the dignity of each; so much so, indeed, that reason, borne on the wings of Thomas to its human height, can scarcely rise higher, while faith could scarcely expect more or stronger aids from reason than those which she has already obtained through Thomas.

31. While, therefore, We hold that every word of wisdom, every useful thing by whomsoever discovered or planned, ought to be received with a willing and grateful mind, We exhort you, venerable brethren, in all earnestness to restore the golden wisdom of St. Thomas, and to spread it far and wide for the defense and beauty of the Catholic faith, for the good of society, and for the advantage of all the sciences. The wisdom of St. Thomas, We say; for if anything is taken up with too great subtlety by the Scholastic doctors, or too carelessly stated-if there be anything that ill agrees with the discoveries of a later age, or, in a word, improbable in whatever way-it does not enter Our mind to propose that for imitation to Our age. Let carefully selected teachers endeavor to implant the doctrine of Thomas Aquinas in the minds of students, and set forth clearly his solidity and excellence over others. Let the universities already founded or to be founded by you illustrate and defend this doctrine, and use it for the refutation of prevailing errors. But, lest the false for the true or the corrupt for the pure be drunk in, be ye watchful that the doctrine of Thomas be drawn from his own fountains, or at least from those rivulets which, derived from the very fount, have thus far flowed, according to the established agreement of learned men, pure and clear; be careful to guard the minds of youth from those which are said to flow thence, but in reality are gathered from strange and unwholesome streams.

The “scientific, disciplinary, and methodologies” alluded to in the Land o’ Lakes statement that must be given “honor and respect” can apply even to Modernist errors enumerated in Lamentabile Sane of Pope Pius X:

WITH TRULY LAMENTABLE RESULTS, our age, casting aside all restraint in its search for the ultimate causes of things, frequently pursues novelties so ardently that it rejects the legacy of the human race. Thus it falls into very serious errors, which are even more serious when they concern sacred authority, the interpretation of Sacred Scripture, and the principal mysteries of Faith. The fact that many Catholic writers also go beyond the limits determined by the Fathers and the Church herself is extremely regrettable. In the name of higher knowledge and historical research, (they say), they are looking for that progress of dogmas which is, in reality, nothing but the corruption of dogmas.

These errors are being daily spread among the faithful. Lest they captivate the faithful’s minds and corrupt the purity of their faith, His Holiness, Pius X, by Divine Providence, Pope, has decided that the chief errors should be noted and condemned by the Office of this Holy Roman and Universal Congregation.

4. Land o’ Lakes: “Every university, Catholic or not, serves as the critical reflective intelligence of its society. In keeping with this general function, the Catholic university has the added obligation of performing this same service for the Church. Hence, the university should carry on a continual examination of all aspects and all activities of the Church and should objectively evaluate them. The Church would thus have the benefit of continual counsel from Catholic universities. Catholic universities in the recent past have hardly played this role at all. It may well be one of the most important functions of the Catholic university of the future.”

This is a one-sided statement: the university can counsel the Church, but not the other way around.  But Article 5 of Ex Corde Ecclesiae says that it is the Bishop who shall evaluate the Catholic character of Catholic universities.  In fact, Catholic Universities are required to report to the Bishop about their activities:

Each Bishop has a responsibility to promote the welfare of the Catholic Universities in his diocese and has the right and duty to watch over the preservation and strengthening of their Catholic character. If problems should arise conceming this Catholic character, the local Bishop is to take the initiatives necessary to resolve the matter, working with the competent university authorities in accordance with established procedures(52) and, if necessary, with the help of the Holy See.

Periodically, each Catholic University, to which Artide 3, 1 and 2 refers, is to communicate relevant information about the University and its activities to the competent ecclesiastical Authority. Other Catholic Universities are to communicate this information to the Bishop of the diocese in which the principal seat of the Institution is located.

5. Land o’ Lakes: “With regard to the undergraduate — the university should endeavor to present a collegiate education that is truly geared to modern society. The student must come to a basic understanding of the actual world in which he lives today. This means that the intellectual campus of a Catholic university has no boundaries and no barriers. It draws knowledge and understanding from all the traditions of mankind; it explores the insights and achievements of the great men of every age; it looks to the current frontiers of advancing knowledge and brings all the results to bear relevantly on man’s life today. The whole world of knowledge and ideas must be open to the student; there must be no outlawed books or subjects. Thus the student will be able to develop his own capabilities and to fulfill himself by using the intellectual resources presented to him.

“Along with this and integrated into it should be a competent presentation of relevant, living, Catholic thought.”

The last sentence is almost an afterthought, after laying out the idea that all sources of knowledge are equal.  This Land o’ Lakes statement does not say explicitly state the primacy of Catholic doctrine; rather, Catholic doctrine just one of the doctrines that may be integrated into the teaching of the courses if this doctrine is relevant enough.  Otherwise, it can simply tossed away.  In contrast to this Land o’ Lakes statement, this is what the Article 4 of Ex Corde Ecclesiae states:

5. The education of students is to combine academic and professional development with formation in moral and religious principles and the social teachings of the Church; the programme of studies for each of the various professions is to include an appropriate ethical formation in that profession. Courses in Catholic doctrine are to be made available to all students(51).

 6. Land o’ Lakes: “Within the university community the student should be able not simply to study theology and Christianity, but should find himself in a social situation in which he can express his Christianity in a variety of ways and live it experientially and experimentally. The students and faculty can explore together new forms of Christian living, of Christian witness, and of Christian service.

“The students will be able to participate in and contribute to a variety of liturgical functions, at best, creatively contemporary and experimental. They will find the meaning of the sacraments for themselves by joining theoretical understanding to the lived experience of them. Thus the students will find and indeed create extraordinary opportunities for a full, meaningful liturgical and sacramental life.”

Note the following phrases to describe expressions of Christianity: “variety of ways”, “experientially”, and “experimentally”.  Note also the similar phrases used for describing liturgical functions: “variety”, “creatively contemporary”, “experimental”, and something students do not only “participate in” but also “contribute to”.  These are code words for tinkering with the words and rubrics of the Holy Mass and the administration of the Sacraments.  That is why one sometimes if not many times hear masses which require lots of experimental and experiential tinkerings: priests changing the words and gestures, masses held outside of churches in stole over ordinary clothes with people sitting down on the grass, the Body of Christ picked up and eaten like potato chips, and earth liturgies which are more for Mother Earth worship and not for the Triune God.

7.  Conclusion

The Land o’ Lakes statement is a statement against the primacy of Catholic doctrine and worship.  And the errors of this statement has infected many Catholic universities, not only those in the US but also those in the Philippines, such as Ateneo de Manila University and De La Salle University whose professors have espoused positions in support of the RH Bill (now a law), contrary to explicit teachings of the Catholic Church regarding contraception, as stated in Pope Paul VI’s Humanae Vitae and taught by Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines.  As stated in Article 4 of Ex Corde Ecclesiae:

 In ways appropriate to the different academic disciplines, all Catholic teachers are to be faithful to, and all other teachers are to respect, Catholic doctrine and morals in their research and teaching. In particular, Catholic theologians, aware that they fulfill a mandate received from the Church, are to be faithful to the Magisterium of the Church as the authentic interpreter of Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition(50).

What the Popes say regarding contraception

What the Popes say regarding contraception, in case one would think Pope Paul VI Humanae Vitae’s condemnation of contraception is a novel idea, an opinion that better theologians can easily brush aside:

Pope Pius XI: “But no reason, however grave, may be put forward by which anything intrinsically against nature may become conformable to nature and morally good. Since, therefore, the conjugal act is destined primarily by nature for the begetting of children, those who in exercising it deliberately frustrate its natural power and purpose sin against nature and commit a deed which is shameful and intrinsically vicious.” (Casti Connubii, n. 54)

Pope Pius XII: “Our Predecessor, Pius XI, of happy memory, in his Encyclical Casti Connubii, of December 31, 1930, once again solemnly proclaimed the fundamental law of the conjugal act and conjugal relations: that every attempt of either husband or wife in the performance of the conjugal act or in the development of its natural consequences which aims at depriving it of its inherent force and hinders the procreation of new life is immoral; and that no ‘indication’ or need can convert an act which is intrinsically immoral into a moral and lawful one.” (Address to Midwives)

Pope Paul VI: “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.” (Humanae Vitae, n. 14)

Pope John Paul II: “This is the reason for the intrinsic unlawfulness of contraception: it introduces a substantial limitation into this reciprocal giving, breaking that ‘inseparable connection’ between the two meanings of the conjugal act, the unitive and the procreative, which, as Pope Paul VI pointed out, are written by God himself into the nature of the human being (n. 12).” (Speeches, 27 Feb. 1998)

Pope John Paul II: “With regard to intrinsically evil acts, and in reference to contraceptive practices whereby the conjugal act is intentionally rendered infertile, Pope Paul VI teaches: ‘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 (cf. Rom 3:8) – 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’.” (Veritatis Splendor, n. 80; inner quote from Humanae Vitae, n. 14).

Meditations on the Great Habagat Flood: Feasts of Transfiguration and Assumption

August 6 or 8/6 is the Feast of the Transfiguration when Our Lord was transfigured before Peter James and John, showing his divinity as God the Son. And after His Transfiguration, Jesus walked down the hill with his apostles to suffer and die. So let us commemorate Aug 6, if we survive this great calamity, as the Great Flood of Philippine Transfiguration.

Read Genesis 8:6-14 Noah releases the Raven and the Dove

August 15 or 8/15 is the Feast of the Assumption of Mary. On November 1, 1950, Pope Pius XII solemnly declared:
“By the authority of our Lord Jesus Christ, of the Blessed Apostles Peter and Paul, and by our own authority, we pronounce, declare, and define it to be a divinely revealed dogma: that the Immaculate Mother of God, the ever Virgin Mary, having completed the course of her earthly life, was assumed body and soul into heavenly glory.”

Let us pray that on Aug. 15, the Philippines will be great nation once again who fears God and walk in His ways. So let us commemorate Aug 15, if we survive this great calamity, as the Assumption of the New Philippine Republic.

Read Genesis 8:15-22 Going out of the Ark

Read Genesis 9:1-7 God blessed Noah and his sons and said to them: Be fertile and multiply and fill the earth.

Read Genesis 9:8-17 Rainbow as the Sign of Covenant

Low Mass on 21 June 2012, 6 pm at the Oratory of St. Ignatius of Loyola

Ateneo Latin Mass Society poster for Low Mass on 21 June 2012

Ateneo Latin Mass Society poster for Low Mass on 21 June 2012

Latin Low Mass on Nov 24, 5:30-7:00 pm. at the Oratory of St. Ignatius in Loyola House of Studies

Latin Low Mass on Nov 24, 5:30-7:00 p.m. at the Oratory of St. Ignatius of Loyola

Latin Low Mass on Nov 24, 5:30-7:00 p.m. at the Oratory of St. Ignatius of Loyola

Ateneans for Noynoy Aquino: A red socialist flag amidst the yellow ribbons in Katipunan Avenue

I was walking in an overpass in Katipunan avenue that stretches from National Bookstore to Gate 2.5 of Ateneo. A saw an Ateneo faculty member and I guess some students handing out yellow ribbons to passing cars at the U-turn bottleneck. Amidst the yellow and white is a curious sight: a red flag with two Filipino words: “_____ Sosyalista”. I can only remember the English translation I made in my mind: Socialist Foundry. In the flag is a hand holding a hammer.

I was curious. I went to the guy carrying the flag. I asked them what group does he represent. He mentioned the name emblazoned in his flag. I asked him how is his group related to Noynoy Aquino for president campaign. He answered that his group supports the candidacy of Noynoy Aquino.

I am really suspicious of the word “socialist” in large red flags. I see these large red flags in leftist rallies. I think one reason for such large flags is to compensate for their little numbers. A group of ten people carrying one large red flag each, when viewed close-up by a cameraman for TV news broadcast, would appear a force to reckon with. But if you look at them from a distance and do a head count, you are lucky to get ten or more. And they use these large megaphones calling for the rejection of the present government system, which is a odd since Lisa Maza of Gabriela and Satur Ocampo of Bayan Muna are joining the senatorial race. This is a departure from Mao Tse Tung’s strategy of conquering the countrysides and then constricting the cities from without. I think the Philippine Left’s strategy now is to infiltrate the government system and use the government’s money to fund the Left’s conversion of the countryside. Communism is a Atheism, a godless religion. Communism was condemned by Pope Pius XII in 1948 and all who support it are excommunicated, e.g. Fidel Castro. But the condemnation is only for communism and not for socialism. And Satur Ocampo and Lisa Maza may call themselves simply as socialists, not communists. But I am still suspicious of those who call themselves socialists.

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…” [1]

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 [2] 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] ; 3. the denial of moral absolutes because of the ongoing and open-ended character of human experience [4]; 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. [5]

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. [6]

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 [7] . Oral contraceptives have been scientifically shown to have an abortifacient mechanism [8] ; 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.” [9] 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.” [10]

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. [11] 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,” [12] 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. [13] Sulpician proportionalist Peter Chirico rejects infallibility for all the Church’s specific moral teaching. [14] 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. [15] 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. [16] Another Jesuit, Garth Hallett, denies that infallibility extends to prescriptive moral teachings (those that attempt to command or forbid behaviour). [17] 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. [18] For Daniel Maguire [19], Richard Gula [20], Peter Chirico [21], and Charles E. Curran [22], 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.” [23]
On the other hand, able defenders of the magisterium [24] 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. [25], Germain Grisez [26], Cardinal Luigi Ciappi, O.P. [27], former Papal Theologian of the Pontifical Household, John Finnis [28], Fr. John A. Hardon, S.J. [29], Marcelino Zalba, S.J. [30], current Vicar General of Opus Dei Msgr. Fernando Ocariz [31], Catholic University of America moral theologian William E. May [32], 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.” [33]

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.” [34]

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.” [35]

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.” [36]

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.” [37]

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. [38] 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.’ [39] 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).” [40]

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.” [41]

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 [42] and Francis A. Sullivan, S.J. [43] 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 [44], 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.” [45] 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 [46] and by Paul VI in Humanae Vitae [47], as well as the confirmations of the condemnations of the intrinsic evils of murder (the direct and voluntary killing of an innocent human being) [48], direct abortion [49], and euthanasia [50] 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.” [51]

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.” [52]


[1] E. GENILO, email to Federico Pascual’s column “Postscript,” in the Philippine Star, December 23, 2008, paragraphs 2-5.

[2] “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).

[3] For a critique of this proportionalism, see: W. E. MAY, An Introduction to Moral Theology, Our Sunday Visitor, Huntington, IN, 2003, pp. 156-157.

[4] For a critique of this position, see: W. E. MAY, op. cit., pp. 157-158.

[5] 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.

[6] 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.

[7] Cf. R. TANSECO, God’s Word Today colum

n, Philippine Star, August 8, 2004.

[8] 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).

[9] T. C. BACANI, The Church and Birth Control, Manila, 1992, p. 29.

[10] T. C. BACANI, Catholics and HB 5043, Gift of God Publications, Manila, 2008, p. 40.

[11] G. BAUM, The Christian Adventure – Risk and Renewal, “Critic,” 23 (1965), pp. 41-53.

[12] K. RAHNER, Theological Investigations, vol. 14: Ecclesiology: Questions in the Church, The Church in the World, Seabury Press, New York, 1976, p. 14.

[13] Cf. K. RAHNER, op. cit., pp. 14-15.

Cf. P. CHIRICO, Infallibility: Crossroads of Doctrine, Sheed, Andrews and McMeel, Kansas City, MO, 1977.

[14] F. H. DRINKWATER, Birth Control and Natural Law, Helicon, Baltimore, 1965, pp. 39-66.

[15] 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.

[16] 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.

[18] R. A. McCORMICK, Authority and Morality, “America,” 142 (1980), p. 169.

[19] D. MAGUIRE, Morality and the Magisterium, “Cross Currents,” 18 (Winter, 1968), pp. 41-65.

[20] R. GULA, Reason Informed by Faith: Foundations of Catholic Morality, Paulist Press, New York, 1989, pp. 209-210.

[21] P. CHIRICO, Infallibility: Crossroads of Doctrine, Sheed, Andrews and McMeel, Kansas City, MO, 1977, pp. 68-83, 185.

[22] C. E. CURRAN, Humanae Vitae: Ten Years Later, “Commonweal,” 105 (July 7, 1978), p. 429.

[23] C. E. CURRAN, Contemporary Problems in Moral Theology, Fides, Notre Dame, 1970, p. 257.

[24] “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).

[25] 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.

[26] Ibid.

[27] L. CIAPPI, L’enciclica ‘Humanae vitae’: valutazione teologica, “Lateranum,” 54 (1978), pp. 105-124.

[28] J. FINNIS, Conscience, Infallibility and Contraception, “The Month,” 11 (1978), pp. 410-421.

[29] J. A. HARDON, Contraception: Fatal to the Faith, catholicculture.org, November, 1998.

[30] M. ZALBA, Infallibilità del magistero ordinario universale e contraccezione, “Renovatio,” 4 (1979), pp. 79-90.

[31] 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.”

[32] W. E. MAY, An Introduction to Moral Theology, Our Sunday Visitor, Huntington, IN, 2003.

[33] K. WOYTYLA, Introduzione alla Humanae Vitae, Tipografia Poliglotta Vaticana, Vatican City, 1969, p. 35.

[34] G. GRISEZ, op. cit., p. 843.

[35] Ibid.

[36] 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.

[37] 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.

[38] PIUS XI, Casti Connubii, AAS, 22 (1930), pp. 559-560.

[39] PIUS XII, Address to Midwives, AAS, 43 (1951), p. 843.

[40] 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.

[41] R. SHAW, op. cit., p. 355.

[42] C. E. CURRAN et al., Dissent In and For the Church: Theologians and ‘Humanae Vitae,’ Sheed and Ward, New York, 1969, p. 63.

[43] F. A. SULLIVAN, op. cit., pp. 150, 227, n. 44

[44] G. GRISEZ, Infallibility and Specific Moral Norms: A Review Discussion, “The Thomist,” 49 (1985), p. 273.

[45] CODE OF CANON LAW, Typis Polyglottis Vaticanis, Vatican City, 1983, Canon 749, par. 2 (emphasis mine).

[46] 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).

[47] 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.

[48] 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.

[49] 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.”

[50] 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.”

[51] T. BERTONE, Theological Observations, “L’Osservatore Romano,” English Edition, Jan 29, 1997, p. 6, col. 3.

[52] PONTIFICAL COUNCIL FOR THE FAMILY, Vademecum for Confessors Concerning Some Aspects of the Morality of Conjugal Life, 1997, 2, no. 4.

Humani Generis of Pius XII Regarding Darwinian Evolution

The encylical Humani Generis of Pope Pius XII discussed the various errors propagated in ecclesiastical institutions by teachers using historical and natural (evolution) sciences in their exegesis.  I will extract his words regarding evolution and evolutionism:

Humani Generis on Evolution

5.  Some imprudently and indiscreetly hold that evolution, which has not been fully proved even in the domain of natural sciences, explains the origin of all things, and audaciously support the monistic and pantheistic opinion that the world is in continual evolution. Communists gladly subscribe to this opinion so that, when the souls of men have been deprived of every idea of a personal God, they may the more efficaciously defend and propagate their dialectical materialism.

6.  Such fictitious tenets of evolution which repudiate all that is absolute, firm and immutable, have paved the way for the new erroneous philosophy which, rivaling idealism, immanentism and pragmatism, has assumed the name of existentialism, since it concerns itself only with existence of individual things and neglects all consideration of their immutable essences.

36. For these reasons the Teaching Authority of the Church does not forbid that, in conformity with the present state of human sciences and sacred theology, research and discussions, on the part of men experienced in both fields, take place with regard to the doctrine of evolution, in as far as it inquires into the origin of the human body as coming from pre-existent and living matter – for the Catholic faith obliges us to hold that souls are immediately created by God. However, this must be done in such a way that the reasons for both opinions, that is, those favorable and those unfavorable to evolution, be weighed and judged with the necessary seriousness, moderation and measure, and provided that all are prepared to submit to the judgment of the Church, to whom Christ has given the mission of interpreting authentically the Sacred Scriptures and of defending the dogmas of faith.[11] Some however, rashly transgress this liberty of discussion, when they act as if the origin of the human body from pre-existing and living matter were already completely certain and proved by the facts which have been discovered up to now and by reasoning on those facts, and as if there were nothing in the sources of divine revelation which demands the greatest moderation and caution in this question.

37. When, however, there is question of another conjectural opinion, namely polygenism, the children of the Church by no means enjoy such liberty. For the faithful cannot embrace that opinion which maintains that either after Adam there existed on this earth true men who did not take their origin through natural generation from him as from the first parent of all, or that Adam represents a certain number of first parents. Now it is in no way apparent how such an opinion can be reconciled with that which the sources of revealed truth and the documents of the Teaching Authority of the Church propose with regard to original sin, which proceeds from a sin actually committed by an individual Adam and which, through generation, is passed on to all and is in everyone as his own.[12]