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Dear Father Angelo Bellon,

I am sending you, as an attachment, an excerpt from a journalistic article, taken from the newspaper “Il Mattino”, but the matter is in the public domain and everyone is talking about it.

The Holy Father said that the contents of Paul VI’s “Humanae Vitae” could be revised. The first question that arises spontaneously is not so much related to the pill itself, which is still an important thing, but it is the following: can we simple faithful trust the Supreme Pontiff and the Teaching  Church if, when they tell us one thing,  after 50 years for example, they then tell us  something different?

Thank you for your attention.

A warm greeting.

Cristino


Priest’s response

Dear Cristino,

1. The Pope has not said that the contents of Paul VI’s encyclical can be revised.

Furthermore, not every word of the Pope is the Magisterium of the Church, especially when he speaks in interviews in which he is not asked to express the doctrine of the Church, but his opinion.

2. The Vademecum for Confessors of the Pontifical Council for the Family (12.2.1997) writes:

“The Church has always taught the intrinsic evil of contraception, that is, of every intentionally infertile conjugal act. This teaching is to be considered as a definitive and irreformable doctrine.

Contraception is gravely opposed to marital chastity, is contrary to the good of the transmission of life (procreative aspect of marriage), and to the mutual self-giving of spouses (unitive aspect of marriage), hurts the true love and denies God’s sovereign role in the transmission of human life” (n. 2.4).

3. What is to be understood by definitive doctrine?

In the “Doctrinal Note illustrating the final formula of the profession of faith” of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith which accompanies the motu proprio Ad tuendam fidem (18.5.1998) of John Paul II we read:

“The Magisterium of the Church, however, teaches a doctrine to be believed as divinely revealed or to be held definitively with a definitive or non-definitive act.

In the case of a definitive act, a truth is solemnly defined with an ex cathedra pronouncement by the Roman pontiff or with the intervention of an ecumenical council.

In the case of a non-definitive act, a doctrine is infallibly taught by the ordinary and universal Magisterium of the bishops scattered throughout the world in communion with the successor of Peter. …

Consequently, when there is no judgment on a doctrine in the solemn form of a definition, but that doctrine, belonging to the patrimony of the deposit of faith, is taught by the ordinary and universal Magisterium which necessarily includes that of the Pope, then it is to be understood as infallibly proposed” (n.9).

4. And again: “In regard to the nature of the assent due to the truths proposed by the Church as divinely revealed or to be considered definitively, it is important to underline that there is no difference regarding the full and irrevocable character of the assent, due to the respective teachings.

The difference refers to the supernatural virtue of faith: in the first case the assent is based directly on faith in the authority of the word of God (doctrines de fide credenda); in the second case, it is based on faith in the assistance of the Holy Spirit to the Magisterium and on the Catholic doctrine of the infallibility of the Magisterium (doctrines de fide tenenda)” (n. 8).

5. The Magisterium of the Church on this matter was also expressed in a collegial manner in the synod celebrated in 1980, the teaching of which was proposed by John Paul II in Familiaris Consortio: “This sacred Synod, gathered in the unity of faith with the Successor of Peter , firmly holds what was proposed in the Second Vatican Council and, subsequently, in the encyclical Humanae vitae, and in particular that conjugal love must be fully human, exclusive and open to new life” (FC 29).


6. John Paul II studied and confirmed the doctrine of Humanae vitae on several occasions.

In a salient passage of his Magisterium he expressed himself thus: “The first, and in a certain way the most serious difficulty (on our subject), is that even in the Christian community voices have been heard and are still being heard which question the truth itself of the teaching of the Church. This teaching was vigorously expressed by Vatican II, by the encyclical Humanae Vitae, by the apostolic exhortation Familiaris Consortio and by the recent instruction of Donum Vitae.

In this regard, a grave responsibility emerges: those who place themselves in open conflict with the law of God, authentically taught by the Magisterium of the Church, lead spouses down the wrong path.

What is taught by the Church on contraception does not belong to a freely disputable matter among theologians. To teach the opposite is equivalent to misleading the moral conscience of the spouses” (5.5.1987).

7. Considering such expressions, one cannot even imagine a reformability of the Magisterium.

Also in this regard, the theological saying should be applied: “Roma locuta, causa finita“. The Magisterium of the Church has spoken, the discussion is over.

Wishing you all the best, I bless you and remember you in my prayers,

Father Angelo