Thursday, 27 December 2012

Papal teaching on artificial birth control is infallible: Fr Thomas Crean O.P.

Dr Pravin Thavasathan has written a fascinating editorial on artificial birth control in the most recent edition of Catholic Medical Quarterly, the journal of the Catholic Medical Association.

Dr Thavasathan provides a brief and helpful historical account of the false teaching and of the plain bad teaching which followed the publication of Pope Paul VI's encylical Humanae Vitae on the regulation of birth which, Dr Thavasathan says ...
" ... ought to be seen as prophetic bcause the Holy Father warned that the widespread use of artificial birth control would lead to a breakdwon in the moral order, the exploitation of women and state mandated population control. All these things have happened. And soon, logically enough, there will be same sex marriage."
Dr Thavasathan also convincingly disposes of the argument that the teaching of Humanae Vitae grew out of the undue influence of an over-emphasis on the procreative good of the marriage act above other goods.

The current issue of the Catholic Medical Quarterly is also graced by an invaluable article by Fr Thomas Crean O.P. entitled "The infallible teaching of Humanae Vitae". In this article he expands on the four conditions that Vatican I laid down for a papal teaching to be infallible:
  • The Pope must be exercising his office of ‘shepherd and teacher of all Christians’
  • He must be ‘defining a doctrine with his supreme apostolic authority’
  • The Pope must be speaking about a matter of faith or morals, and not, for example, giving his opinion about literature or secular history
  • He must intend that his teaching be accepted as true by the whole Church
Fr Crean's thesis is credible because, in clear language which can be understood by ordinary lay men and women, he sets out the facts and he provides credible, authoritative sources for those facts.

Finally, on the matter of Humanae Vitae's specific teaching on artificial birth control, the current edition of the Catholic Medical Quarterly publishes a letter from St Padre Pio to Pope Paul VI. The edition also has articles on natural family planning by Dr Adrian Treloar, Dr Helen Davies and, on NaProTechnology, by Dr Anne Carus.

For reasons I have frequently presented on this blog, to my own mind it’s quite clear that countless human lives have been destroyed as a result of the rejection of Humanae vitae and its teaching on the wrongfulness of the separation of the unitive significance and procreative significance of the conjugal act, not least through birth control and IVF practices, including amongst Catholics.

According to Archbishop Raymond Burke, the prefect of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura (the "supreme court" of the Catholic Church), Pope Benedict has emphasised in his encyclical Caritas in Veritate that the message of Humanae vitae is fundamental to achieving authentic human development:
"It is instructive to note that Pope Benedict XVI, in his most recent encyclical letter on the Church's social doctrine, makes special reference to Pope Paul VI's Encyclical Letter Humanae vitae, underscoring its importance "for delineating the fully human meaning of the development that the Church proposes" (Caritas in veritate, no. 15). Pope Benedict XVI makes clear that the teaching in Humanae vitae was not simply a matter of "individual morality," declaring: 'Humanae vitae indicates the strong links between life ethics and social ethics, ushering in a new area of magisterial teaching that has gradually been articulated in a series of documents, most recently John Paul II's Encyclical Evangelium vitae' (Caritas in veritate, no. 15).
" ... The respect for the integrity of the conjugal act is essential to the context for the advancement of the culture of life", said Archbishop Burke.

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