Birth Control and Infallibility


#1

A priest suggested that the Catholic teaching on birth control is not infallible and can be changed. He claimed that the Catholic Church had changed its teachings before. One example was that the Church taught that sex within marriage was at most a venial sin. As proof of this he cited the work of a certain Rainer (I’m probably spelling his name wrong). Can someone please help me with this. How do I respond? What sources can I read on this topic?

Thanks


#2

I’m sure someone here can give you more precise information, but isn’t Rayner considered a dissenter?

I would ask for written documentation of his claims. And I would be very suspicious of anything this priest says.


#3

Good question. Sorry I don’t have an answer but look forward to others responding here. I have a feeling that your thoughts are correct. I have had four different confessors tell me that, essentially, anything that is consensual between spouses is ok and venial at the worst- including birth control if you have already had children. 2 of the four confessors who have told me this are very orthodox, old priests. One of them was even an alter boy to Pope John IV. Their responses surprised me.


#4

instead of proof texts, I think it is better to engage in a conversation of what a Sacrament is.

It is an outward sign of invisible grace.
Marriage is a Sacrament because it is an outward sign of Christ and the Church, (see Ephesians 5:22 onward).

As such, there is a parallel between what the sign of marriage is and what the sign of Christ and the Church is.

A man leaves his Father and Mother. He makes a committment.
In the case of Jesus on the cross, Jesus said, Father, not my will but your will.

"He cleaves to his wife"
He makes a covenantal vow to give his very life and body fully and completely to each other.
Jesus gave his life and his body fully and completely through the scourging, beating, carrying his cross, and hanging on the cross.

"And the two become one flesh"
The married couple gives themselves to each other. They consummate the marriage.
Jesus in John 19:26 said, It is consummated.
he gave his very life for his Church.
(this is what happens when we participate in Holy Eucharist).

Here is the main point. In giving his life, He consummated the covenant and what happened; water and blood flowed from his side.
The Fathers of the Church saw in this, the transmission of new life. Water is teh life of Baptism, blood is the Eucharist.

Seen in this way, marriage is viewed in Eucharistic terms where Jesus gave his life, totally and completely without reservation to His Bride the Church, and his bride wholly and completely accepts the life of Christ and from it springs new life, the rebirth of Baptism and life sustaining Eucharist.

Imagine if Christ had contracpeted so that he held back some of his full and total life giving self on the cross?
What if he put a barrier so that the fruits of his life could not give life to the Church?
Imagine if there was a barrier to the grace contained in the Eucharist. The grace that brings with it, eternal life?
This is really what contraception is!

Contracpetion needs to be seen in light of the total and complete self giving of the bridegroom Christ to the bride (Church), and the total receptivity (we receive his body and blood in the Eucharist) of the Church in reciving Christ’s life.
And this reception brings life, spiritual life.

In the context of Eucharist, contraception is contrary to CHrist’s total and complete self-giving on the cross.

Make sense?


#5

Unfortunately, most priests do not understand the sacramental theology behind this.

Most of what I have written comes from John Paul II’s theology of the Body.

So, contraception can’t be allowed. To do so, would deny Christ’s work on the cross.


#6

The Church allows birth conrol. It does not allow contraception. Two different things.

This teaching against contraception from natural law. I heard that the Pope is going to repeal both the ban on contraception and the law of gravity in the same encylical. :rolleyes:


#7

I’m just guessing that he’s talking about Karl Rahner who was silenced for his wacky teaching. I don’t think you could say that Rahner is proof of the Church’s teachings.


#8

[quote=mikeledes]A priest suggested that the Catholic teaching on birth control is not infallible and can be changed.
[/quote]

Well, John XXIII must have thought it was changeable or he wouldn’t have empanelled the Papal Commisson on Birth Control. And Paul VI certainly must have thought it was changeable, or he wouldn’t have confirmed and enlarged the Commission as he described in H.V.

And the 30 of 35 members of the Commision thought it was changeable or they wouldn’t have voted to change it.

Who am I to argue with these folks?


#9

[quote=St.Eric]Good question. Sorry I don’t have an answer but look forward to others responding here. I have a feeling that your thoughts are correct. I have had four different confessors tell me that, essentially, anything that is consensual between spouses is ok and venial at the worst- including birth control if you have already had children. 2 of the four confessors who have told me this are very orthodox, old priests. One of them was even an alter boy to Pope John IV. Their responses surprised me.
[/quote]

Sorry, but this is not accurate. “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), and to the reciprocal self-giving of the spouses (the unitive aspect of matrimony); it harms true love and denies the sovereign role of God in the transmission of human life” (Vademecum for Confessors 2:4, Feb. 12, 1997)." This is from the Catholic Answers article on the subject, which can be found here: catholic.com/library/birth_control.asp

At any rate, individual priests are not infallible, no matter who they served as altar boys. These priests are simply wrong. Dan-Man is right: read the Theology of the Body. It will shed light on these kinds of questions, as well as on (to borrow from Douglas Adams), Life, the Universe, and Everything.


#10

[quote=BillP]Well, John XXIII must have thought it was changeable or he wouldn’t have empanelled the Papal Commisson on Birth Control. And Paul VI certainly must have thought it was changeable, or he wouldn’t have confirmed and enlarged the Commission as he described in H.V.

And the 30 of 35 members of the Commision thought it was changeable or they wouldn’t have voted to change it.

Who am I to argue with these folks?
[/quote]

That something CAN change, in the opinion of the world, is not the question. Truth does not change, however, and that a pope empanelled a commission to discuss an issue; or that individuals would like to see a truth changed, does not effect or signify that Truth itself has changed.


#11

[quote=Sherlock]That something CAN change, in the opinion of the world, is not the question. Truth does not change, however, and that a pope empanelled a commission to discuss an issue; or that individuals would like to see a truth changed, does not effect or signify that Truth itself has changed.
[/quote]

True, truth doesn’t change, but often our understanding of the truth does change. :thumbsup:


#12

[quote=Sherlock]That something CAN change, in the opinion of the world, is not the question.
[/quote]

Actually it is. The OP asked:

A priest suggested that the Catholic teaching on birth control is not infallible and can be changed. … Can someone please help me with this. How do I respond? What sources can I read on this topic?.

The answer is yes, clearly, the teaching CAN change. Whether it should or whether it will is a discussion for another day or topic.


#13

[quote=BillP]Well, John XXIII must have thought it was changeable or he wouldn’t have empanelled the Papal Commisson on Birth Control. And Paul VI certainly must have thought it was changeable, or he wouldn’t have confirmed and enlarged the Commission as he described in H.V.

And the 30 of 35 members of the Commision thought it was changeable or they wouldn’t have voted to change it.

Who am I to argue with these folks?
[/quote]

This is a great misreading of the truth. Faced with the new technology of “the pill”, Pope John XIII sought to find out if it could be used without contravening the Church’s perennial teaching on artificial contraception. While the majority of those commissioned to look into the matter thought that it would not contravene the Church’s teaching, Pope Paul VI - who alone had the final authority to authoritatively and infallibly judge the matter - came to understand that, otc, “the pill” very much was against Catholic Tradition and thus the Holy Father was protected by the Holy Spirit from teaching error.

So, go argue with the Holy Spirit.


#14

Hey, why not. Haven’t you heard that the earth is the center of the universe? :slight_smile:


#15

[quote=BillP]Well, John XXIII must have thought it was changeable or he wouldn’t have empanelled the Papal Commisson on Birth Control. And Paul VI certainly must have thought it was changeable, or he wouldn’t have confirmed and enlarged the Commission as he described in H.V.

And the 30 of 35 members of the Commision thought it was changeable or they wouldn’t have voted to change it.

Who am I to argue with these folks?
[/quote]

The very first Church council (cf. Acts 15) debated circumcision and what Gentile practices could be permitted. Simple debate does not at all indicate that change is possible, but rather it indicates that pressures are being brought to bear on a Church teaching, so debate and discussion are used to hammer out exactly what the Church means by contraception or circumcision or whatever it is, as well as what is permitted and what isn’t.

Besides, how many members of a commission voted for contraception does not at all mean that they were right. Commissions aren’t the Magisterium, only advisors to it, thank God. I would think the muck that contraception has made of modern marriages and society would be enough proof that it was always a bad idea.


#16

[quote=St.Eric]Hey, why not. Haven’t you heard that the earth is the center of the universe? :slight_smile:
[/quote]

Make that man. :wink:


#17

[quote=FCEGM]… Pope Paul VI - who alone had the final authority to authoritatively and infallibly judge the matter - came to understand that, otc, “the pill” very much was against Catholic Tradition and thus the Holy Father was protected by the Holy Spirit from teaching error.
[/quote]

Well then since the Pope specifically chose not to issue the encyclical ex cathedra, he was remiss in not defining issuing Humanae Vitae definitively ex cathedra and thus infallibly.

Is that your position?


#18

[quote=BillP]Well then the Pope was remiss in not defining issuing Humanae Vitae definitively ex cathedra and thus infallibly. Is that your position?
[/quote]

Remiss? No. Infallible? Yes. :slight_smile:

catholic-pages.com/morality/hvinfallible.asp


#19

[quote=FCEGM]Remiss? No. Infallible? Yes. :slight_smile:

catholic-pages.com/morality/hvinfallible.asp
[/quote]

Lets get this straight here in the beginning. It appears to be your position that Humanae Vitae was issued infallibly by Pope Paul VI?

Yet the document doesn’t contain the commonly accepted, unambiguous, language that all other infallibly isssued documents contain?

Pope himself never claimed infalliblity for the doctrine during his lifetime?

So in effect you believe the Pope infallibly issued the encyclical unintentionally? So he accidentally made it infallible??

Very few theologians of the Church, even those who agree with the ABC teaching, agree with that position. In fact, it is, on its face ludicrous.


#20

Rahner was never silenced though he did add a powerful voice to the chorus of theologians who argued against or simply ignored the encyclical Humanae Vitae. And Rahner wasn’t even that liberal a theologian.

In fact the at the Vatican Press Conference for Humanae Vitae the presenting Mgr. said " The decision has been given", said Mons. Lambruschini, “and it is not infallible.” ewtn.com/library/Theology/PRSSCNHV.HTM

Not only can it be changed, but to Rahner, it can be ignored (he called this legitimate descent).

Rahner was probably the most important Catholic theologian of the 20th century. Other theologians who have voice opinions contrary include liberals like Eduard Schillibeeckx and Hans Kung or conservatives like Yves Congar, Cardinal Journet and Henri de Lubac. Even conservative philosophers have disagreed with the arguments in Humanae Vitae including Germain Grisez, Etienne Gilson and Jacques Maritain.


DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit www.catholic.com.