|TEACHER||LEVEL||DEGREE OF CERTITUDE||ASSENT REQUIRED|
|Bishops dispersed, in union with Pope||Ordinary and universal||INFALLIBLE||Full assent of faith|
|Bishops and Pope in General Council||Extraordinary and universal||INFALLIBLE||Full Assent of Faith|
|Pope ex cathedra||Extraordinary and universal||INFALLIBLE||Full Assent of the Faith|
A good recent example of a fallible teaching that has in fact fallen lower and "need no longer be believed in" is the old doctrine of limbo which used to be part of Hell but is no more. There were actually two types of limbo, one for the Patriarchs of the Old Testament--folks who were never baptized but were allegedly rescued from there when Jesus "descended to the dead", and the one for infants who died before baptism but before they could be guilty of personal sin. What once was piously described by priests and nuns to terrified young charges in convent schools as limbo, can now be chucked out as fairy tales and ghost stories, though limbo was once the stuff of learned disquisitions and theological debates.
I hope that the same fate will befall the disastrous, wrong-headed and cruel teaching of the Philippine Catholic Church on modern contraception and birth control, which their surrogates and spokesmen have been dishonestly portraying as abortion, or even, as in the case of the lying fruitcake, Linda Valenzona, with straight-faced ridiculousness as "genocide"!
PAPAL INFALLIBILITY was first defined dogmatically by the First Vatican Council on July 18, 1870, under Pope Pius IX (Pio Nono) in Pastor Aeternus (the Dogmatic Constitution of the Roman Catholic Church):
We teach and define that it is a dogma Divinely revealed that the Roman pontiff when he speaks ex cathedra, that is when in discharge of the office of pastor and doctor of all Christians, by virtue of his supreme Apostolic authority, he defines a doctrine regarding faith or morals to be held by the universal Church, by the Divine assistance promised to him in Blessed Peter, is possessed of that infallibility with which the Divine Redeemer willed that his Church should be endowed in defining doctrine regarding faith or morals, and that therefore such definitions of the Roman pontiff are of themselves and not from the consent of the Church irreformable. So then, should anyone, which God forbid, have the temerity to reject this definition of ours: let him be anathema. (see Denziger §1839).However, the incantation formula prescribed for proclaiming an infallible teachings has not been applied to birth control and contraception, certainly not in Humanae Vitae, which does not contain the witch-doctor's curse in the last line above.
The doctrine of infallibility makes the quite amazing claim that the Roman Church is not only protected by God from any actual error, but even the possibility of error, whenever it practices its "teaching magisterium". But the Catholic doctrine of infallibility is in fact a dangerous two edged sword. While it may serve to silence opposition to its dogmatic pronouncements on the part of nominally faithful and devout Catholics, it also binds the Church forever to uphold and defend its infallible pronouncements. It sets up a potentially embarrassing vulnerablity in an epoch when scientific culture that has swept human civilization teaches human beings what would seem to be a superior virtue and mental habit--to seek after the truth based on facts, evidence and reason. This poses a constant threat to any allegedly infallible teaching. Inherent to the scientific attitude and the scientific method is the notion that most truly worthwhile ideas about nature -- including human nature -- are ideas that can be tested against the facts and are therefore at least falsifiable if not in fact verifiable.
A claim to infallibility is not only a radically unscientific attitude. It is a rhetorically weak and vulnerable position to take. I think it is a special kind of mental weakness, a sign of institutional intellectual impairment, decrepitude, the sign of a deepening lack of vitality and vigor at the very roots of the Roman Catholic Church, a signal that a kind of ideological sepsis has set in.
When Pope Benedict warned the youth of the world in Australia last week against entering into a spiritual desert, he may inadvertently have put his finger on his Church's own problematic malaise, which the doctrine of papal infallibility makes so palpable. What they cannot teach by reason and clarity of logic, they would force into the hearts and minds of the sheep.
The Philippine Catholic Bishops even sponsored a "mass protest action" yesterday against Reproductive Health bills being considered in Congress on the anniversary of the promulgation in 1968 of HUMANAE VITAE POPE PAUL VI, an outline of which follows for the convenience of my readers...
I. PROBLEM AND COMPETENCY OF THE MAGISTERIUM
New State of Things
Interpreting the Moral Law
The Magisterium's Reply
II. DOCTRINAL PRINCIPLESGiven at St. Peter's, Rome, on the 25th day of July, the feast of St. James the Apostle, in the year 1968, the sixth of Our pontificate. PAUL VI.
God's Loving Design
Observing the Natural Law
Union and Procreation
Faithfulness to God's Design
Unlawful Birth Control Methods
Lawful Therapeutic Means
Recourse to Infertile Periods
Consequences of Artificial Methods
Limits to Man's Power
Concern of the Church
Nota bene: I have already discussed the fallacy of false distinction between "natural" and "artificial" contraception in a previous post.
III. PASTORAL DIRECTIVES
Value of Self-Discipline
Promotion of Chastity
Appeal to Public Authorities
Seeking True Solutions
To Christian Couples
Recourse to God
To Doctors and Nurses
A Great Work
Nota bene: After Pope John XXIII died, his successor, Pope Paul VI "confirmed and expanded" the Papal Commission on Population and Birth Control. Composed of 15 cardinals and bishops and 64 lay experts, the Commission's work is addressed by Paul VI in "Special Studies" above. But the cardinals and bishops voted 9-6, and the lay experts, 60-4, for the Catholic Church to change its position on contraception and birth control.
In the Magisterium's Reply, Paul VI ignored the Commission's recommendations, noting only that it was "divided" over the moral principles involved, and reaffirmed the Church's steadfast opposition to contraception and abortion. It is ironic of course that in countries like the Philippines, the lack of access to simple contraceptive materials such as pills, IUDs and condoms have led to an estimated 400,000 to 800,000 induced abortions annually, according to the World Health Organization and numerous independent studies.
There is a heartlessness about the Catholic Bishops that belies any of their claims to leadership, piety or even fealty to the Gospel message of love and good will.
Pope Paul VI, speaking always in the royal "WE", rejected the Papal Commission's findings on the basis of a "Minority Report" (authored by the future Pope John Paul II) which reveals the true reason for the Catholic Church's intransigent position:
Catholic theologian and historian August Bernard Hasler remarked that, “Thus it became only too clear that the core of the problem was not the pill, but the authority. continuity, and infallibility of the Church’s magisterium.”
Minority Report of the Papal Commission: “If it should be declared that contraception is not evil in itself, then we should have to concede frankly that the Holy Spirit had been on the side of the Protestant churches in 1930 (when the encyclical Casti Connubi was promulgated). and in 1951 (Pius XII’s address delivered before the Society of Hematologists in the year the pope died).
“It should likewise have to be admitted that for a hall a century the Spirit failed to protect Pius XI, Pius XII, and a large part of the Catholic hierarchy from a very serious error. This would mean that the leaders of the Church, acting with extreme imprudence, had condemned thousands of innocent human acts, forbidding, under pain of eternal damnation, a practice which would now be sanctioned. The fact can neither be denied nor ignored that these same acts would now he declared licit on the grounds of principles cited by the Protestants, which popes and bishops have either condemned or at least not approved” (page 170).
It is quite evident from the fact that a majority of the cardinals and bishops on the population commission wanted to allow non-abortion type contraception, that the Pope and the episcopacy are NOT united, universally or ordinarily in their opinions on the issue. This disagreement is also to be seen in the fact that European and South American bishops have adopted a more liberal attitude towards birth control
Only the Philippine Bishops are militantly in support of the old doctrine. It's heartless, cruel and not at all in the best interests of the Filipinos, Catholic or not. The Philippine Church must change, or it will surely perish.