Was Fr. Herbert McCabe an orthodox Catholic? Did he favor contraception and women's ordination?

I’ve read great things about how he engaged the new atheism, and the fundamental importance of seeing God rightly - not as another “thing” or being in the created order.

I have ordered God Matters, and God, Christ, and Us. The reviews look great, and I’m excited to read them.

However, I did a google search on Fr. McCabe, and the Wikipedia article says he disagreed with the Church’s ban on contraception as well as the male only priesthood. Can anyone confirm this? If this is true, would you still recommend his books, such as the ones I mentioned, or is there questionable stuff - or worse - in them?

Thanks so much!

I have done a bit of research on this issue, and you’ll note two things…

First, the relevant part of the Wikipedia article, which I quote here:

He was a member of the Slant group, and unafraid of criticising what he perceived as erroneous applications of the Roman Catholic tradition, such as the ban on contraception in Humanae Vitae, and the reservation of priestly ordination to men.[citation needed]

You’ll note it has the infamous [citation needed] tag at the end, for good reason.

I’ve dug around, and that seems to be a copy and paste from this blog article here:


He was a member of the Slant group and while firmly committed to Catholic orthodoxy, he was nonetheless unafraid to criticise what he perceived as erroneous applications of the tradition, such as the ban on contraception in Humanae Vitae, and the reservation of priestly ordination to men. He combined a commitment to the thought of Aquinas and Wittgenstein with a socialist political stance, influenced by Marxism …

Second, digging further, I managed to encounter this Obituary from The Guardian:


In the early 1960s, he joined fellow Dominican Laurence Bright and Neil Middleton of the publishers Sheed and Ward in founding the December Group, which met in that month to examine social issues from a Catholic stance independent of any official organisation.

By 1965, the group became, in effect, the annual conference of people associated with the Cambridge-based journal Slant. The political views expressed in Slant reflected a spectrum of left positions, but the phrase “Catholic Marxist” stuck and McCabe delighted in it.

So, while it does seem he belonged to Slant, I’m not 100% convinced the group espoused teachings contrary to that of the Church, even though it is classified as a “spectrum of left positions”. :shrug:

Very good! Thanks so much! God, Christ, and Us just shipped today. I can’t wait to dive in!

You might want to take a look at this:

H. McCabe, Contraceptives and Natural Law, 1964 (that is, before Humanae Vitae)


"It is common teaching of the Church, reaffirmed by successive popes and to be found in all reputable textbooks of moral theology, that the use of mechanical contraceptives which interfere with intercourse is always wrong. Whether this common teaching amounts to the ordinary magisterium in the technical sense and is therefore infallible is another matter, but short of such assurance it would be hard to find a clearer guide for the Christian who wants to know what he should do or not do. It should be emphasized that even those theologians who think there are legitimate uses for the pill nearly always distinguish between this and mechanical contraceptives. It is indeed clear that these are two quite different matters: contraceptives interfere directly with the act of intercourse whereas the pill does not.

It is a mistake to suppose that we do not know anything until we know it infallibly (…). the fact that the Church could come to a different view about contraception does not make her present teaching doubtful. It would be rational to entertain doubts about it if there were some good evidence that the Church were in fact likely to change her view. There does not seem to be such evidence.
The morality of contraception is not then an open question (…)."

Even if some theologians parse words in this case (Re: the pill) it doesn’t change a thing in reality.

ABC (artificial birth control), of whatever kind, has always been condemned by the Church. Resources abound on the subject. Here’s 3 examples

*] Birth Control

*] Apologetics and Birth Control

*] A Person is a Person

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