Are the statements against contraception truly infallible?

Lately all this talk of Laudato Si being prudential judgement and since its about science and nothing to do with faith or morals (even though the Pope made it a moral case by saying we all have a moral obligation to fight CC), people say it isn’t binding on the whole Church and it isn’t infallible.

Yet, that makes me think about the argument against contraception, for example, and the appeal to infallibility in this case. How can the Church infallibly proclaim against contraception, since it has nothing to do with Faith or Morals? Contraception has to do with sex, sex is biology, and biology is science. The technology of condoms and pills are also science. Isnt the RCC merely making prudential judgements here and perhaps even stepping outside of its bounds by talking about matters of science in this case as well?

OK, let’s try a little reductio ad absurdum:

Murder has to do with life. Life is biology (DUH!), and biology is science.

So isn’t the Church exceeding Her authority by saying that murder is wrong?

My absurd reduction actually is more logically rigerous. Your claim is that “sex is biology.” But sex is not biology - it is part of a biological cycle. My absurd reduction claims that life is biology. The word itself is based on the Greek bios, which means life.

So do those Catholics, many of them here at CAF, who call Laudato Si a prudential judgement and not an infallible statement because CC is a matter of science (even though that science carries with it moral obligations, as stated by Pope Francis), engage in reductio ad absurdum?

They engage in absurdum, but not a reduction. Lots of people here like to get out their Kaptain Katholik Sekret Vatikan-1 Dekoder Rings and decide which teachings are (or are not) infallible. Nobody on this Forum is actually qualified to make this determination.

The reason we cannot say that Laudato Si is infallible is because the Magesterium of the Catholic Church has not said it is infallible. The Church could, at any time, recognize any part of Laudato Si as belonging to the Deposit of Faith, without regard to anybody’s dekoder ring.

It’s unlikely the Church would recognize the entire document, since the Church has never done any such thing in the past (for either Papal teachings or Council teachings). No document, in its entirety, has ever been recognized as infallible.

What do you think that Laudato Si said that might be infallible?

Do you believe that the Pope said that Catholics cannot use carbon based fuels?

He did not say that.

Do you believe that the Pope said that Catholics cannot practice capitalism and must advocate for state socialism?

He did not say that either.

The teaching on contraception is definitely a morals issue.

Whether is is infallible or not is another question. Just because a teaching in the Church relates to faith or morals does not mean that teaching is infallible.

Argument for infallibility: The teaching on contraception, expressed in the papal encyclical, highlights the teaching of the universal ordinary magisterium. That is, the condemnation of contraception is historically and traditionally based as well as agreed upon by the bishops of the entire Church.

Argument for fallibility: The document is not ex cathedra or a doctrinal definition from an ecumenical council, and just because something has been historically accepted does not mean it is therefore correct.

The same can be said regarding climate change and our treatment of the environment in Laudato si - that what the Pope advocates falls into moral behaviour (or our lack of it in this regard). Neither this nor Humanae vitae are entirely infallible and both are concerned with a similar thing (ie morals). For those here and elsewhere who take the latter at face value for that reason, they should also the former. (However documents like these are not infallible per se, of course).

Who said that it was prudential judgment?

since its about science and nothing to do with faith or morals

Who said it has nothing to do with faith or morals?

the Pope made it a moral case by saying we all have a moral obligation to fight CC

I think you are thinking of this paragraph: “Humanity is called to recognize the need for changes of lifestyle, production and consumption, in order to combat this warming or at least the human causes which produce or aggravate it.” Laudato Si 23.

Yet, that makes me think about the argument against contraception, for example, and the appeal to infallibility in this case.

Who appealed to infallibility in the contraception case?

How can the Church infallibly proclaim against contraception, since it has nothing to do with Faith or Morals?

It does have to do with faith and morals. Sex is an action, and all actions need to be evaluated from a moral perspective.

Contraception has to do with sex, sex is biology, and biology is science.

It also has to do with action, and actions are either good or bad, and good or bad is moral or immoral.

The technology of condoms and pills are also science.

Using this technology is also an action and needs to be evaluated as such.

Isnt the RCC merely making prudential judgements here and perhaps even stepping outside of its bounds by talking about matters of science in this case as well?

The RCC isn’t merely making prudential judgments in either case. Laudato Si repeats the traditional Catholic doctrine that humans must take good care of the earth: “Christians in their turn [must] realize that their responsibility within creation, and their duty towards nature and the Creator, are an essential part of their faith.” (Laudato Si 64)

The document notes that recent science gives us an additional reason to take good care of the earth: “A very solid scientific consensus indicates that we are presently witnessing a disturbing warming of the climatic system.” (Laudato Si 23)

The document also says that the Church is not pronouncing on science: “[T]he Church does not presume to settle scientific questions or to replace politics.” (Laudato Si 188)

The document does repeat that mankind has a moral responsibility to take care of the earth: “[Humanity] also has the duty to protect the earth and to ensure its fruitfulness for coming generations.” (Laudato Si 67)

I would suggest that this is not an accurate understanding of the relationship between human actions and moral principles.

While it is true the charism of infallibility does not extend beyond the deposit of faith, the Pope has not attempted to do so. It seems you’ve picked up some erroneous understanding from what you’ve read, no doubt from poor explanations of religious assent, assent of the faith, infallibility, and the particular contents of this encyclical.

“What people say” is not always accurate.

It is true it is not an exercise of the extraordinary magisterium, nor is it an exercise the Pope and bishops together, nor that of an ecumenical council. So, in that respect, I would concur this is not an exercise of infallibility.

Which does not lead to the conclusion that we may ignore what the Pope says.

You are quite mistaken. Contraception is a grave evil against the sixth commandment. It is a disordered use of our sexual faculties, just as fornication and adultery are.

Nope. Contraception is an act of the will against the fruit of the marital embrace. It is a disordered use of the sexual faculties.

Which have nothing to do with the Church’s teaching on contraception.

No.

And while these hot-button issues (contraception, marriage, homosexuality, etc.) are in the realm of the Church’s ability to speak to and make judgments, people who are preoccupied with upholding the traditional teachings need to be aware that there is a certain degree of development available – as these teachings are not infallible, at least not certainly so, or else we would not even be having these kinds of debates. As Pius VI once said, “May the lively debate aroused by our encyclical lead to a better knowledge of God’s will.”

Dissent and debate are not the same thing.

No one is *debating *these things at all. They are definitively defined in the deposit of faith.

People are still “debating” (i.e. dissenting from) the teaching on the ordination of women 20 years after JPII said the debate is CLOSED. That is not actual debate. That is dissent.

Their premise that the encyclical is not an exercise of infallibility is sound.

Their conclusion as to why it is not an exercise of infallibility is somewhat flawed ,or at least their expression of it or your interpretation of their expression of it.

I was not talking about women’s ordination. There are documents that specifically say that that subject is part of the faith and unchanging.

Humane Vitae did not have a clear “this is infallible.”

The Catechism says, 2298 “In times past, cruel practices were commonly used by legitimate governments to maintain law and order, often without protest from the Pastors of the Church, who themselves adopted in their own tribunals the prescriptions of Roman law concerning torture… In recent times it has become evident that these cruel practices were neither necessary for public order, nor in conformity with the legitimate rights of the human person.”

So the Church now teaches that part of previous Church law use to be evil. The Church has infallible authority over morals, faith, and liturgical type discipline. Something like torture, even if commanded by Rome or bishops, is not within their scope of authority. I don’t believe social matters like government policy or unions are for the Church to decide on either. Some of us Catholics feel like the Church has been weakening its voice in the world by endorsing certain positions (like Leo XIII on unions)

The infallible character of the Church’s teaching on contraception does not rise and fall with HV. It was the constant teaching of the Church before HV.

True.

I guess I just have bigger doubts.

Which is why I’ve never seen anybody on this forum claim that it is infallible.

At best, we can claim that it meets the criteria for infallibility, in our opinion.

And, if the Church ever defines that Humane Vitae is infallible, it is highly unlikely that the entire document will be thus defined. Usually the infallible teaching is limited to a single sentence or paragraph.

Abu insists on this forum that Pius XI’s encyclical infallibly defined this issue

Rome has spoken:

“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.” (Vademecum for Confessors)

Does he now? I wonder which paragraph he has in mind. Probably the first sentence of paragraph 14.

But I am not aware of anything that would satisfy this requirement:

No doctrine is understood as defined infallibly unless this is manifestly evident. [CIC 749, §3]

If Pope Pius had used the phrase “I define” then I could agree that it is manifestly evident enough (and the infallible part would be what immediately followed). But he didn’t even use the phrase “I declare.”

There’s no such thing as an entire document which is infallible. I suspect that many theologians would disagree on which sentence was infallible.

Private theologians with Vatican-1 checklists don’t count.

I don’t think the Church will ever define that any paragraph of Humane Vitae is infallibly taught. But I do think that Humane Vitae lays the foundation for a future statement which will be promulgated infallibly.

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