Church teaching on contraception arbitrary?


I recently heard a certain local priest, we’ll call him Fr. Joe, state that the Church’s teaching on contraception is not infallible, and that in fact he personally thought it was okay between married couples.

Fr. Joe recalled how Christians used to think that ejaculate contained life and to spill it was murder. Right or not, he recalled how the Church used to believe that any use of the procreative faculty, even in a marriage, was inherently sinful, and he explained how the Church’s understanding and theological conclusions have evolved over time. In addition, he cited the now-common example of AIDS in Africa as a possible justification for condom use.

As best as I could understand Fr. Joe, he explained that in the 60s at a Church council on the matter, prior to Humani Vitae being published, 80% of the theologians at this council recommended that the Church backtrack on its condemnation of contraception, despite Paul VI’s decision to stick by it.

Fr. Joe went on to outline the difference between infallible teaching and official teaching, and how one could reject official teaching as long as one “had a good reason” and understood that one would be accountable to God for doing so.

This whole lecture seemed scandalous to me, and Fr. Joe’s explanation of when one could reject official teaching seemed anti-Catholic and just as arbitrary as he seemed to think an official Church teaching was.

If you have any thoughts on the Church’s teaching against contraception or Fr. Joe’s seemingly scandalous remarks that might help clarify the situation, please share. I am trying to think of what I should say, if anything, to the priest or to the people, mostly candidates and catechumens like myself, who were present.


Wow…maybe show him the official teaching right out of the CCC…


Fr Joe is right but not being terribly useful.
The Church is in the process of discernment over contraception. For the moment, it is a perfectly legitimate Catholic position to say that you disagree with the ban on contraceptives but will obey the pastoral teaching of the Church against their use. No-one can criticise you for that.
It is obvious that the modern position that contraception is an unproblematic technical fix to unwanted pregnancies is very wrong indeed. Though the pastoral teachings of the Church may change, they are binding for the time being.

To give you an analogy, I work with amyloid fibrils. We don’t know whether they pose any threat to lab workers. You could justify treating them as “very dangerous”, on the grounds that amyloid diseases can be extremely serious, or “hazardous” on the grounds that they are not very infectious, if at all, and we can’t afford to treat everything with the highest level.
Now let’s say that the safety manager insists on “very dangerous” containment. Someone treats them as merely “hazardous”. That person would be disciplined, even if the next day the safety manager changes his mind and downgrades them.


Please provide sources for this.
This is a mainstream media fabrication.


The Church in its official teaching is infallible, both faith and morals. When a teaching is repeated and reaffirmed, although not dogmatically, it is still infallible just not dogma. The Church cannot go back on its teaching on artificial contracpetion because the magisterium has afiirmed this teaching throughout the history of the Church.


Father Joe need not worry. Those who reject (dissent is a better word) Church teaching WILL be held acocuntable to God for it.
Church teaching on contraception is doctrinal at least and dogmatic in many cases. It has been constantly held and taught by the common Magesterium of the Church as well as the Supreme Pontiff.
Father Joe is in some deep yogurt in that he is teaching heresy. One is to have full mental assent to ALL Church dogma and doctrine if one wishes to be a Catholic, let alone a priest.
Father Joe sounds like one of those “spirit of Vatican II” priests. I thought most of them had died or retired. It doesn’t matter how many theologians at V II thought contraception might be a good idea. Theologians are NOT the Magesterium.
Father Joe is also confused about the use of condoms for the prevention of AIDS. Condom use increases the incidence of HIV, partly by giving people a false sense of security, partly by failure and partly by lack of use by those who were taught to depend on them. Abstinence, however, always works, and properly educated people will use it. Tell Father Joe to examine the HIV/AIDS statistics for sub-Sahara Africe. Uganda had the lowest HIV/AIDS rate when they taught abstinence before marriage and faithfulness within marriage. They got lax on the abstinence teaching and their HIV/AIDS rate increased almost immediately.
I know this is difficult, but you should approach Father Joe and call him on his dissent. Do it with charity; something like, "Father, the Catechism says…(quote the relevant paragraphs, especially about obedience, acceptance, and the Catechism being a ‘sure norm.’ ). I thought you said…(quote him). I’m confused."
If he continues in his dissent, write to your bishop. If Father Joe is teaching RCIA, he’s endangering his catechumens and doing them no favors.


Someone should explain all hat to the Pope. Apparently, the Holy Spirit is contradicting Himself by speaking with authority through two different magisteriums. One through the successors of the apostles and one through dissenters.

…the Pope has an authority derived from his own proper office. With the mandate received from Christ he must teach and (if necessary) authentically interpret the divine law, both natural and supernatural, which must be known and observed in order to attain salvation…

… “Let no Catholic be heard to assert that the interpretation of the natural moral law is outside the competence of the church’s Magisterium. It is in fact indisputable, as our Predecessors have many times declared (Pius XI, St. Pius X, Pius XII and John XXIII are cited), that Jesus Christ, when he communicated his divine power to Peter and the other Apostles and sent them to teach all nations his commandments (cf. Mt. 28:18029), constituted them as the authentic guardians and interpreters of the whole moral law, not only, that is, of the law of the Gospel but also of the natural law, the reason being that the natural law declares the will of God, and its faithful observance is necessary for men’s eternal salvation” (“Humanae Vitae”, n. 4)…

The Servant of God Paul VI’s Encyclical “Humanae Vitae” thus has the authority of the Church’s ordinary Magisterium and therefore its teaching must be given “a religious submission of intellect and will; the Christian faithful are to take care to avoid whatever is not in harmony with that teaching” (canon 752). Vatican II had already expressed it well: “This loyal submission of will and intellect must be given, in a special way, to the authentic Magisterium of the Roman Pontiff, even when he does not speak ‘ex cathedra’ in such wise, indeed, that his supreme teaching authority be acknowledged with respect, and that one sincerely adhere to decisions made by him, in conformity with his manifest mind and intention, which is made known principally either by the character of the documents in question, or by the frequency with which a certain doctrine is proposed, or by the manner in which the doctrine is formulated” (“Lumen Gentium”, n. 25a)…

Archbishop Vincenzo Fagiolo, President of the Pontifical Council for the Interpretation of Legislative Texts


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