Is Humanae Vitae infallible doctrine?

I hear two very differing opinions about the infallibility of Humanae Vitae written by Pope Paul VI. The strongest argument against this encylical is Canon 749 of the Roman Catholic Church states that: §3 Infallibiliter definita nulla intellegitur doctrina, nisi id manifesto constiterit. §3 No doctrine is understood to be infallibly defined unless this is manifestly demonstrated. In 1854 the Immaculate Conception was infallibly stated then in 1950 the Assumption of Mary was infallibly proclaimed. Some Catholics believe these are the last two infallible proclamations of the Church. What say you all?

I recall reading someplace that Pope John Paul II did not declare Humanae Vitae infallible because it was simply restating what was already infallible teaching.

I cannot find anywhere that states that this is in fact infallible from the start.

There are lots of assumptions about what is and what isn’t infallible, but the teachings on HV in itself is not an infallible teaching.
People will eat me alive for this, but it’s true.

Things are not made to be infallible as soon as the Pope speaks them, even if they are on faith and morals. He has to specifically state that "What I’m about to say is infallible"
The teachings have to be declared infallible by a group of bishops.

Simply to have people agree with it and not challenge the teaching is no grounds for it to be assumed as infallible.



As to the organ of authority by which such doctrines or facts are determined, three possible organs exist. One of these, the magisterium ordinarium, is liable to be somewhat indefinite in its pronouncements and, as a consequence, **practically ineffective **as an organ. The other two,…

Earlier in the document, states they are a) the Pope, speaking Ex Cathera and b) an Ecumenical Council.

…however, are adequately efficient organs, and when they definitively decide any question of faith or morals that may arise, no believer who pays due attention to Christ’s promises can consistently refuse to assent with absolute and irrevocable certainty to their teaching.

But before being bound to give such an assent, the believer has a right to be certain that the teaching in question is definitive (since only definitive teaching is infallible); and the means by which the definitive intention, whether of a council or of the pope, may be recognized have been stated above.

It may not be ex cathedra, but the document has such strong language that it must be held to the same muster as binding since the Holy Spirit protects the Church from error in regards to moral matters as well as been consistently in communion of teaching with many Bishops and the Popes since its writing (as well as before). “there are three modes in which infallible doctrinal teaching can be presented by the Magisterium: by the Pope alone, by the Pope and Bishops assembled together in an Ecumenical Council, or by the College of Bishops (including the Pope as its head) even when they are dispersed throughout the world. According to Ford and Grisez, the Church’s teaching against contraception is a classic example of this third mode of infallibility transmitting the doctrine of Christ. That is, while they do not claim that Humanae Vitae is in itself an ex cathedra, infallible definition, Ford and Grisez maintain that the teaching which it contains is infallible and irreformable, by virtue of having been taught constantly and definitively, over a period of many centuries, by a consensus of Popes and Bishops around the world - a consensus which was virtually unanimous until the early 1960s.”

For more:

And the quote from that I quoted debunks that outright, stating:

One of these, the magisterium ordinarium, is liable to be somewhat indefinite in its pronouncements and, as a consequence, practically ineffective as an organ.

It has to be delcared Ex Cathera for it to be infallable teaching.
We cannot assign infallability to the teachings just because it’s been taught for a time.
That is using Christ’s autority that He gave to Peter out of context and is very dangerous.
It’s putting words in the mouth of Christ.

Even if it weren’t infallible, the teachings contained therein would still be binding on your behavior. Violating a papal imperative against ABC, for instance, is surely a grave matter - no matter what you think of the fallibility of HV.

Yes this my confusion too. Humanae Vitae was not something “new” it was restating and more clarifcation of what the churches position has always been. It is short compared to other encylical. It was definetly written for the common person and not just for the church leaders.

i love this beginning part. It’s like we acknowledge that things are changing in the world so we formed a committee ofto get their take and what they said is nice but wrong since it doesn’t follow church teachings.

Special Studies
5. The consciousness of the same responsibility induced Us to confirm and expand the commission set up by Our predecessor Pope John XXIII, of happy memory, in March, 1963. This commission included married couples as well as many experts in the various fields pertinent to these questions. Its task was to examine views and opinions concerning married life, and especially on the correct regulation of births; and it was also to provide the teaching authority of the Church with such evidence as would enable it to give an apt reply in this matter, which not only the faithful but also the rest of the world were waiting for. (5)
**When the evidence of the experts had been received, as well as the opinions and advice of a considerable number of Our brethren in the episcopate—some of whom sent their views spontaneously, while others were requested by Us to do so—We were in a position to weigh with more precision all the aspects of this complex subject. Hence We are deeply grateful to all those concerned. **

The Magisterium’s Reply
**6. However, the conclusions arrived at by the commission could not be considered by Us as definitive and absolutely certain, dispensing Us from the duty of examining personally this serious question. This was all the more necessary because, within the commission itself, there was not complete agreement concerning the moral norms to be proposed, and especially because certain approaches and criteria for a solution to this question had emerged which were at variance with the moral doctrine on marriage constantly taught by the magisterium of the Church. **
Consequently, now that We have sifted carefully the evidence sent to Us and intently studied the whole matter, as well as prayed constantly to God, We, by virtue of the mandate entrusted to Us by Christ, intend to give Our reply to this series of grave questions.

Is there something within HV that you don’t agree with and are trying to see if you have to follow it or not?

The Magisterium Ordinarium is a legititimate organ for infallible teachings in regard to faith and Morals. Please see the CCC 2035 which speaks of this (that the Magisterium is protected by the charism of infallibility in regards to matters of doctrine including morals). The CE is referring to the fact that when the Magisterium at times is vague in its teachings, it can be ineffective on its own, so the ex cathedra (used only twice) and councils help to shore up confusion. In the case of HV claims, it is not vague in any regards to the use of birth control just as Evangelium Vitae has very clear prohibitions against abortion. There is no vagueness or duplicity in the Church’s teachings on birth control. The popes in union and Bishops in union with them (the magisterium) have been consistent and clear on this issue. It therefore is not “indefinite in its pronouncements” making it on its own ineffective. That quote you have merey states that we need all three organs to help us see the deposit of truth in all faith and morals (that without ex cathedra or the councils, there maybe confusion on many matters). In regards to birth control, the magisterium ordinario is enough since it does not make vague or confusing statements.


Has the Vatican ever officially condemned the Winipeg statement?

Here is your reply:
Basically the Vatican calls for allegiance to the Magisterium and not seperate Bishops who teach something contrary to it. In recent years, Bishops in Canada have called for fellow Bishops to retract the statement.

The encyclical was not intended as an infallible statement of doctrine. It left open the possibility of further change in the Church’s attitude toward marital sex. All it said was “here are the current arguments in favor of changing the policy, but we aren’t going to make any change at this time.” Sometime in the future the issues raised by Paul VI’s commission will be revisited and a modified policy will be written. Until the it’s business as usual.


I’m sorry but I completely disagree with you. The churches position will not change when it comes to what is marital sex. Read Theology of the Body or any of the other encyclical on marriage. Sex is something that is and has always been an act of love and self giving between and man and a women. It didn’t change under the pressure of the Free loving 60’s and 70’s gerneration so it is not going to change now or in the future.The point to Humanae Vitae was to look and see if the churches position could be changed to fit society. Thats why there was a comission/study. The chruch then came in and said “yes this is what you may think now if good for the family but your wrong. It’s not what is God’s plan and it’s not healthy for society.”

I don’t think that was the point of the enciclical.

There was a commission established to investigate Artificial Birth Control.
It was called the Papal Birth Control Commission.

H.V. was published after the commission dre to a close. That is very interesting to see are the commission’s findings…

Here is a quote from NewAdvent.

…in 1960, some voices in the Church argued for a reconsideration of these positions. In 1963 Pope John XXIII established a commission of six European non-theologians (including 3 laymen) to study questions of birth control and population.[1][2] After John’s death in 1963, Pope Paul VI added theologians to the commission and over three years progressively expanded it from 6 to 13, 15, 58, and finally [72 members from five continents (including 16 theologians, 13 physicians and 5 women, with an executive committee of 9 bishops and 7 cardinals).[1][2] The commission produced a report in 1966, stating that artificial birth control was not intrinsically evil and that Catholic couples should be allowed to decide for themselves about the methods to be employed.[1][2][3][4]

One commission member, American Jesuit theologian John Ford (with the assistance of American theologian Germain Grisez) drafted a minority report working paper that was signed by Ford and 3 other conservative theologian priests on the commission, stating that the Church should not and could not change its long-standing teaching.[1][2][3][4] Even though intended for the Pope only, the commission’s report and two working papers (the minority report and the majority’s rebuttal to it) were leaked to the press in 1967, raising public expectations of liberalization.[3][5] However, Paul VI explicitly rejected his commission’s recommendations in the text of Humanae Vitae, noting the 72 member commission had not been unanimous (4 theologian priests had dissented, and 1 cardinal and 2 bishops had voted that contraception was intrinsically evil–significantly Cardinal Ottaviani, the commission’s president and Bishop Colombo, the papal theologian).

That is simply not true.

Read Lumen Gentium #25

Although the individual bishops do not enjoy the prerogative of infallibility, they nevertheless proclaim Christ’s doctrine infallibly whenever, even though dispersed through the world, but still maintaining the bond of communion among themselves and with the successor of Peter, and authentically teaching matters of faith and morals, they are in agreement on one position as definitively to be held.(40*) This is even more clearly verified when, gathered together in an ecumenical council, they are teachers and judges of faith and morals for the universal Church, whose definitions must be adhered to with the submission of faith.(41*)

And this infallibility with which the Divine Redeemer willed His Church to be endowed in defining doctrine of faith and morals, extends as far as the deposit of Revelation extends, which must be religiously guarded and faithfully expounded.

The teachings of the Ordinary Magistrarium are infallible, and, by defintion, are not dependant on Extraordinary means ( Ex Cathedra, or Concillular declarations) for the charism of infallibility.

But rather, they are infallible strictly based on the consistancy of the teachings on the matter as part of the Deposit of Faith recieved from Christ and the Apostles.

Look at my post #7 in this thread. the Pope mentions that there was comission and as your pointed out came up with a conclusion that was against church teaching and traditions. The pope guide by the protection of the Holy Spirit said “Your wrong and this is why BC is wrong and the problems it will lead to.”

I am not sure what position you think the church is going to change about marital sex. Sex is and always will be something that is between a married man and women and every act has to be open to life so BC and Condom and other means of contrcaption will always be wrong and evil.

See, as I understand it, if the Pope says something like that, as per your quote, especially if referencing a previous document or statement, where the Church’s doctrines are being called into question, he HAS to speak Ex Cathera before it can be infallable.

He didn’t.


I think we are talking in circles. I was oringal talking about drafdog comment “It left open the possibility of further change in the Church’s attitude toward marital sex.”

My point was that the church couldn’t change their position and Humanae Vitae said that and showed why. I don’t know if it’s Ex Cathera because frankly it doesn’t matter if this specific document was because he didn’t say anything that wasn’t already known as a statment of church teaching. He just said it in a new way for the people. He wasn’t changing anything. The point of my arguement was that church is not going to change her teaching on sex.

The document itself is not infallible, but the teaching against BC is.

For example, the infallible teaching that it is a sin to steal has never been defined in an ex cathedra statement by a Pope. Nvertheless it is and we are bound to observe it.

Seems like some faulty reasoning here. Everyone seems to be agreeing that HV is not ex cathedra. HV was a result of a commision to study the issue. If the issue was already infallibly decided, why would you call a commision? Does anyone foresee a commision to study the issues of real presence or apostolic succession?

From my understanding so someone can correct it but the church was acknowleding that society had changed. It was in a sense showing it’s not stick in the mud and un willing to change so it comissioned a group to study the issue. What the study “decided” was not in line with church traditions and previously established doctrine so the Pope rejected the study and wrote HV to say why he was rejecting the Study and what the established teaching already was. He was correcting his sheep from following down a dangerous and incorrect path.

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