Monday, March 10, 2008

The Church's teaching on contraception is infallible

The above link takes you to an article written by the late Jesuit Catechist Fr. John Hardon of happy memory. In the words of Fr. Hardon, "The grave sinfulness of contraception is taught infallibly by the Church's ordinary universal teaching authority [Magisterium]."

It is important for Catholics to understand [and to acknowledge] that the Magisterium can and does teach infallibly on matters of faith and morals in the ordinary day-to-day execution of its pastoral mission provided that some very specific conditions are fulfilled. The Dogmatic Constitution on the Church [Lumen Gentium] of the Second Vatican Council clearly described these conditions:

"Although the Bishops, taken individually, do not enjoy the privilege of infallibility, they do, however, proclaim the doctrine of Christ infallibly on the following conditions: namely, when, even though dispersed throughout the entire world but preserving for all that amongst themselves and with Peter's successor the bond of communion, in their authoritative teaching concerning matters of faith or morals, they are in agreement that a particular teaching is to be held definitively and absolutely." (LG, No. 25).

And what the Fathers of Vatican II add to this passage is also of critical importance:

"This is still more clearly the case when, assembled in an ecumenical council, they are, for the universal Church, teachers of and judges in matters of faith and morals, whose judgments must be adhered to with the loyal and obedient assent of faith."

And what do the Vatican II Fathers have to say about artificial contraception? In Gaudium et Spes, No. 51, we read:

"...when there is question of harmonizing conjugal love with the responsible transmission of life, the moral aspects of any procedure does not depend solely on sincere intentions or on an evaluation of motives, but must be determined by objective standards. These, based on the nature of the human person and his acts, preserve the full sense of mutual self-giving and human procreation in the context of true love. Such a goal cannot be achieved unless the virtue of conjugal chastity is sincerely practiced. Relying on these principles, sons of the Church may not undertake methods of birth control which are found blameworthy by the teaching authority of the Church in its unfolding of the divine law. "

Even if the Church's teaching on artificial contraception were not infallible [and it is], this would not constitute an excuse for disregarding the teaching. And anyone who believes otherwise is simply uninformed. Those teachings of the Magisterium on faith and morals which are not proposed infallibly [i.e, presented as definitive and irreformable], are nevertheless still taught with the authority of Jesus Christ Himself. Such teachings are labelled "noninfallible." But we must understand, as Catholics, precisely what this term means. It is a technical term used to designate Magisterial teachings which are authoritatively proposed as true and certain, even while not being taught as absolutely irreformable.

Those who believe that such teachings are to be considered "fallible" teachings have a poor understanding of what is meant by noninfallible teachings. They understand this to mean that they are the equivalent of merely probable opinions or the "official" expressions of some party line. But these teachings, because they represent the "mind" of Christ on the matters in question, are taught with the more than human authority which has been granted to the Magisterium by the will of Christ.

Again, all Catholics should prayerfully read Lumen Gentium, No. 25.


Anonymous said...

Wow! Thanks Paul. I can use that the next time someone tells me that the Church's teaching on contraception is "not infallible." The teaching is infallible.

Anonymous said...

Very informative Mr. Melanson. I always knew that the Catholic Church's teaching on contraception was infallible. But I didn't fully appreciate what the Church really means by noninfallible teachings. Nice presentation. Thanks.

Michael Cole said...

There can not be any doubt about the sinfullness of contraception. The Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2370, is clear in its teaching: "Periodic continence, that is, the methods of birth regulation based on self-observation and the use of infertile periods, is in conformity with the objective criteria of morality.158 These methods respect the bodies of the spouses, encourage tenderness between them, and favor the education of an authentic freedom. In contrast, 'every action which, whether 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' is intrinsically evil."

Intrinsically evil. And that which is intrinsically evil may never be justified.

Anonymous said...

There are other infallible teachings which some reject. One of these is the Church's infallible teaching that women cannot be ordained and that in fact the Church has "no authority" to confer priestly ordination on women and all the faithful are to accept this definitive teaching (Ordinatio Sacerdotalis, 4).

Such people are no longer Catholic. They have already deserted the Church.

Anonymous said...

And to think that a majority of "Catholic" couples contracept and then receive Holy Communion without making a confession. If this is not apostasy, what is it? Father Hardon is right, we need to stand with Peter's successor and against our morally permissive society which is becoming ever more pagan. Let us pray: St. Michael the Archangel + Defend us in battle + Be our protection against the wickedness and snares of the Devil + May God rebuke him we humbly pray + And do thou, O Prince of the Heavenly Host + By the power of God cast into Hell Satan and all the other evil spirits + Who prowl about the world seeking the ruin of souls + Amen.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Rev. Hardon. If you don't accept this teaching, you have ceased to be Catholic.

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